76ers

Sixers 118, Timberwolves 109: Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden have Jimmy Butler's back in return to Minnesota

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Jimmy Butler didn't have his finest performance, but Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden and the rest of his teammates picked him up in his return to Minnesota.

The Sixers got off to a sweltering start but wound up hanging on for dear life in a 118-109 win over the Timberwolves at Target Center Saturday night.

The team was without Joel Embiid (knee, load management) and will be without the All-Star center for their entire three-game road trip.

The victory improves the Sixers to 49-27 on the season and gets them one game closer to locking up the East's third seed.

Here are observations from the win.

• Welcome back to Minny, Jimmy.

We know that Butler doesn’t shy away from the villain role. He wears it proudly — literally.

Butler was quiet in the scoring department. He made a ton of hustle plays, but the Sixers could've used more from him offensively.  He finished with just 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting with 13 rebounds and five assists.

He did tweak his back coming down from a failed lob attempt. He didn't leave the game, but with Embiid expected to miss time, it's worth noting.

• Ben Simmons didn’t take or make a three, but the way he pushed the tempo created opportunities for his teammates. He racked up eight assists in the first half alone and was an efficient 4 of 5 for eight points.

In the second half, Minnesota stifled Simmons a bit as he finished with just nine assists overall and turned the ball over five times. He had 20 points (8 of 11 shooting) and 10 rebounds.

• With Embiid out of the lineup, Jonah Bolden got the start and the rookie ran with the opportunity. He was active early and it was clear All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns couldn’t match the springy young center’s energy.

Including on this ridiculous putback dunk where Towns failed to box Bolden out.

Bolden showed exactly what he can bring to the table in the playoffs. His athleticism, quick feet and ability to protect the rim could come in handy against more mobile big men. Discipline has been the biggest issue for Bolden this season, but he stayed out of trouble for the most part. He was a team-high plus-22 while Boban Marjanovic and Amir Johnson were combined minus-13.

He also hit five threes for good measure. He recorded 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

• The Sixers got off to a scorching hot start from the field. They hit eight threes in the first quarter for the second straight game. They went 8 of 13, with one of those misses being an end-of-quarter heave. They went ice cold the rest of the way, going just 7 of their last 18.

Leading the way was Tobias Harris, who was 3 of 5 from three in the first half. Harris has been in a shooting slump recently. He shot just 29 percent from three over his last 13 games coming in. He hadn’t hit three or more threes in a game since March 2, against the Warriors — a game in which he hit just 3 of 11.

You have to love the confidence coming with a shot like this off the dribble.

Unfortunately, Harris couldn't build on his fast start, but was solid with a team-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.

 

• In his second game against his old team, former Sixer Dario Saric had a rough night from the field. "The Homie" went just 1 of 6 for four points.

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