The Timberwolves were an anomaly in a recent stretch of sub-.500 opponents for the Sixers — a playoff contender holding their own without Jimmy Butler in the tough Western Conference.
The Sixers took care of business, 120-108, but it wasn’t without a hitch in the final quarter.
The Sixers had a 98-71 lead after three, a big enough gap for Brett Brown to comfortably sit his starters in the fourth. Well, it should have been a big enough lead. The Timberwolves cut that deficit to 10 points, and Brown turned back to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to quiet the Timberwolves’ push.
“For us, we don’t want to go back in,” Simmons said after the game. “We want to see our guys play and finish out the game because we know they’re capable of that. But to see our guys not do that, it’s kind of annoying but we’ve got to get on top of that and everybody has to be ready to play.”
This was a less-than-ideal situation as the Sixers are looking for ways to rest their high-minutes players, particularly Embiid, who had only clocked 22 minutes through three quarters. In total, Embiid and Simmons played less than two minutes apiece in the fourth, but the reserves have to take better control of leads so the starters don’t have to return at all.
"I trust the guys that were on the floor," Embiid said. "We just wanted to make sure we had it locked and that nothing was going to happen. But it was nothing."
The Sixers improved to 42-30. They could have clinched a playoff spot with a Pistons loss to the Bulls, but Detroit won Saturday night, 117-95.
• Simmons needed less than three quarters to record his 10th triple-double of the season: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists.
• Joel Embiid was having a good time out there on his way to 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
OH MY.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 24, 2018
Joel making this one a fun one as the Sixers lead 79-58 over the T-wolves. pic.twitter.com/j48gUYwg8r
• Led by those 13 assists from Simmons, the Sixers dished a total of 33 dimes. Their five-straight games of 30-plus assists are their longest such stretch since December 1981. With assists, turnovers can be just as significant. The Sixers committed 14, equal to the Timberwolves, but gave up only 13 points compared to the Timberwolves’ 22.
• The Eagles continue to show their support for the Sixers: