3 observations after Embiid takes over, Sixers beat T-Wolves to finish road trip


The last time the Sixers visited Minnesota, Joel Embiid and James Harden showed their tantalizing potential together for the first time.

On Tuesday night, Harden watched a brilliant Embiid performance from the sidelines. 

Embiid had 39 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a 117-94 Sixers win over the Timberwolves at Target Center without Harden, who sat with left foot soreness.

Tyrese Maxey added 27 points. Anthony Edwards posted 32 points for Minnesota.

The Timberwolves were down Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain) and Jaylen Nowell (left knee tendinopathy). 

The Sixers completed a 4-1 road trip and improved to 43-22 overall. Here are observations on their blowout victory:

Edwards comes out firing 

The Sixers entered Tuesday’s game fresh off of a 147-point night, while the Timberwolves scored 138 points against the Kings their last time out.

After the opening few minutes, both teams appeared on pace to exceed those lofty scoring numbers. Minnesota made its first five field goals and the Sixers converted their first four. Embiid hit two face-up jumpers in isolation against Rudy Gobert, although De’Anthony Melton then turned the ball over trying to force a pass to Embiid. Gobert stole it and assisted an Edwards fast-break slam. 

The game turned a bit helter-skelter, which figured to favor the Timberwolves given their rest advantage. Edwards got Maxey flying with a pump fake before knocking down a three. He was ultra-aggressive in the first quarter, seizing any opportunity to attack and scoring 15 of Minnesota’s 27 points in the period. 


Edwards also had a play that made everyone forget about the scoreboard for a moment. He split Danuel House Jr. and Paul Reed before throwing down a powerful, and-one dunk on Jalen McDaniels, whose younger brother Jaden starts for the Timberwolves. 

Embiid’s takeover mode 

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers played an all-bench lineup late in the first and early in the second quarter. 

It wasn’t always smooth, but the Sixers’ second unit ultimately held its own. House made a coast-to-coast layup, Shake Milton had two driving buckets, and Georges Niang drained a corner three on an after-timeout play. The team gave good effort defensively, although the margin for error usually feels smaller when Embiid is on the bench and the opponent looks to create favorable switches. With House on Minnesota big man Naz Reid in the post, Niang doubled off of Kyle Anderson and ended up conceding a layup.

The Sixers played high-level team defense in the second quarter, but Embiid deserves heaps of credit for his individual impact. During an MVP-caliber stretch late in the second, Embiid had his hands on almost everything and spearheaded a 15-0 Sixers run. He made two three-pointers, blocked three shots, and took control of the game. Two more Embiid triples early in the third quarter extended the Sixers’ edge to 19 points. Embiid’s persistence about believing in the “right plays” is great, but there’s no question he can swing games just by making it abundantly clear for several minutes that he’s the best player on both ends of the court. 

The night after a 19-for-19 performance at the foul line, Embiid only drew one first-half free throw. An uptick in second-half free throws felt inevitable for Embiid, who’s taken at least seven foul shots in all but three appearances this season. Sure enough, he moved to 7 for 7 at the foul line in the third quarter alone by finishing off an and-one after he evaded a double team with a sharp spin and lefty layup.

Embiid later added a technical free throw to extend the Sixers’ lead to 22 points. Dating back to the Sixers' victory over the Bucks, Embiid has made 30 consecutive free throws. He scored 22 points in the third.

Maxey keeps rolling 

The Sixers didn't have a great start to the fourth quarter and it seemed likely that Embiid would need to check back in.

Maxey then provided a timely scoring spurt that featured two step-back threes. He looked confident he'd score against whatever player the Timberwolves put in front of him. Maxey's deep range and comfort with his step-back jumper have become more valuable tools this season with defenders justifiably wary of his speed. 


Tuesday's game was Maxey's sixth in a row with over 20 points. He hasn't shot under 50 percent from the floor once during that run.

The Sixers were ultimately able to keep Embiid on the bench for the whole fourth quarter. He played just 28 minutes and will have a little well-earned time off before the Sixers host the Trail Blazers on Friday night.