The 10-9 Sixers have returned to the East Coast and they’ll even tip off earlier than usual Saturday night.
Here are the essentials for their game against the 9-10 Timberwolves:
- When: 6 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m.
- Where: Wells Fargo Center
- Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Tonight's the night
Joel Embiid will play his first game since scoring 30 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in the Sixers’ Nov. 6 win over the Bulls. He'd been listed as questionable throughout the day.
Embiid entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Nov. 8 after testing positive for COVID-19. Don’t expect the Sixers to give him a heavy workload; his long-term health is of greater importance than pushing for a single regular-season win.
Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves happened to be the opponents the last time Embiid returned from an extended absence. He came back in April from a left knee bone bruise and played 28 minutes as the Sixers beat Minnesota despite Towns’ 39 points.
Tobias Harris will also return after two games out with left hip soreness. Shake Milton was a late scratch for the Sixers due to left groin soreness.
Towns will play after being listed as questionable with a right index finger sprain.
Will time off feet help Sixers?
Without Patrick Beverley (left adductor strain), Minnesota conceded a season-high 133 points Friday night in a loss to the Hornets.
The Sixers are relatively well-rested. For only the second time this season, they had two days in between games after losing to the Warriors in their road trip finale. The team opted against a Black Friday practice, too, and also called off a shootaround scheduled for Saturday morning.
Though just about everyone who’s reached the NBA is in supreme physical shape, minutes matter. The players aren’t robots and competing in shorthanded game after shorthanded game has a significant cumulative effect. A bit of early rust wouldn’t be surprising, but the mini-break seems likely to benefit the Sixers — especially players such as Tyrese Maxey, who’s averaged 37.9 minutes since Nov. 4.
The Sixers turned the ball over 19 times in their defeat to Golden State, their second-highest total of the season. Avoiding a similar performance against the Timberwolves might not be easy.
Per Cleaning the Glass, Minnesota is first in the league in defensive turnover percentage (18.4). No Beverley hurts the T-Wolves’ defense, but Minnesota is still full of players who force turnovers.
However, Minnesota ranks dead last in defensive rebounding percentage, having allowed opponents to grab 31.0 percent of available offensive boards. As long as the Sixers make smart passes and don’t venture into too much trouble, they should have a good chance to gain an edge in possessions.