MINNEAPOLIS – Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 118-112 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night at the Target Center.
— Joel Embiid‘s back is just fine. Well, at least it was on Tuesday night. The Sixers center said he experienced some tightness, just not to the extent it was before Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. The pain he felt that day forced him to miss the matchup in New Orleans.
On Tuesday, Embiid finished with team highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds while tying teammate Ben Simmons for game-high honors in assists with eight. Embiid also blocked one shot while logging a career-high 39 minutes, 26 seconds after being a game-time decision to play.
— Trevor Booker once again proved that he would be a solid piece for the Sixers to re-sign in July. The holdup might be both sides agreeing a salary. Booker is making $9.1 million is this the final season of his contract. He’ll probably want to make at least that in free agency this summer while the Sixers look to keep money to go after A-list free agents.
On Tuesday, the reserve power forward, whom the Sixers acquired Thursday in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He also recorded five assists, three rebounds, a team-high two steals and one block. He’s averaged 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block in three games as a Sixer.
— Richaun Holmes has been more effective at the power forward spot. The third-year veteran played that position at Bowling Green, though the Sixers switched him to center his rookie year. Due to injury, Holmes started at power forward against the Timberwolves. He was impressive, finishing with season highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds to go with two assists and a block.
This was his fourth straight came of scoring at least 12 points while playing power forward. Prior to that, he had been the team’s third-string center.
— The Sixers’ turnover problem just won’t go away. It’s actually getting worse. They committed a season-high 26 turnovers on Tuesday. The Timberwolves were able to score 31 points off the Sixers’ giveaways.
As they usually are, most of the turnovers were unforced. They were a result of the Sixers being careless with the ball and trying to do too much. Coach Brett Brown admitted that his team won’t achieve their season goals — including making the playoffs — unless they find a way to cut down on turnovers.
— Jerryd Bayless is out of his shooting slump. The Sixers reserve guard made scored six points on 2-for-3 shooting – all three-point attempts – in 14:41 of action. This comes after Bayless hit just 1 of 13 shots — including 1-for-10 on three-pointers — in the previous two games combined.
His minutes were down from the 22 he averaged in those games, because the Sixers gave the bulk of their minutes off the bench Tuesday to post players and point guard T.J. McConnell. However, Tuesday’s performance is a step in the right direction.
‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ awards
— Best performance: This was a tough one. Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 38 points, but the award goes to Embiid. In addition to leading the team in scoring and rebounding, the NBA all-star candidate made 11 of 12 foul shots and graded out to a game-high plus-19.
— Worst performance: As hard as he played, I couldn’t avoid handing this to Amir Johnson. The Sixers backup center was held scoreless after missing all three of his shot attempts. He also had more personal fouls (three) than rebounds (two). Johnson committed two turnovers and graded out to a team-worst minus 10 in 12:40 of action.
— Best defensive performance: It sounds crazy to give this to Karl-Anthony Towns when you consider Embiid finished with 28 points and Booker schooled him out a few plays. However, it’s hard to overlook the Timberwolves center’s game highs of four steals and three blocks.
— Worst statistic: This goes to the the Sixers’ turnovers.
— Best statistic: You have to give this to JJ Redick’s foul shooting. The Sixers shooting guard made all 11 of his free throws. Nine of them came in overtime.
— Worst of the worst: This goes to the Timberwolves’ shooting in overtime. They missed eight of their 12 shots. Taking advantage, the Sixers scored the first six points of the extra session en route to eventually building a nine-point cushion with 39.3 seconds remaining.