MINNEAPOLIS – The 76ers lead the NBA in rebounds per game at 48.8. Their 26.1 assists per game rank third.
But those accomplishments are basically going unnoticed.
That’s because the Sixers’ quest to make the NBA playoffs will be determined by their ability to take care of the basketball. Through 27 games, they’ve received an “F” in that category. The Sixers lead the NBA with 17.2 turnovers per game. They had a season-worst 26 in Tuesday’s 118-112 overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
“We were lucky to get out with a win when you have that many turnovers,” coach Brett Brown said.
The turnovers frustrate Brown because the Sixers play their hearts out. Yet they keep, as he put it, “squirting the ball around the gym.”
“You end up looking at the stat line three quarters through the game,” Brown said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, 51 percent [shooting] from the floor. ‘Oh, 80-something percent from the line, 36 or 37 [percent] from the three. And we are down seven.’ So the dots don’t connect.”
Brown immediately zeroed in on the turnovers. He realizes that it’s part of having a young team and playing an up-tempo style. But he also knows these mostly unforced turnovers will hurt them no matter how dominant Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick are.
“It’s stuff that we say the second when we walked into a room,” Brown said, “Sometimes we do [cut them down], and sometimes we don’t.”
On Tuesday, the Sixers (14-13) were lucky that Embiid was able not only to play but also to play at a high level. Embiid recorded team highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds and a career-best eight assists against the Timberwolves. This all came after he sat out the previous game because of tightness in his back.
“Coming into this game, I didn’t feel 100 percent, but I pushed through it,” said Embiid, whose playing status was a game-time decision. “I came out of the game pretty good. So I’ve just got to keep getting treatment on making sure it’s not tight.”
Embiid played a career-high 39 minutes, 26 seconds. That was partly because of his back. While on the bench, he told the Sixers staff that he couldn’t sit very long because doing so would lead to his back tightening up.
“While I was playing, I didn’t have the lift that I usually have,” he said. “But I got out of this game pretty well.”
Simmons also had eight assists in the game, to go with seven points, three rebounds and a game-worst seven turnovers. All his points came late in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
Meanwhile, Redick (26 points), Richaun Holmes (season highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds), Dario Saric (14 points) and Trevor Booker (12 points) were the Sixers’ other double-figure scorers.
Holmes got the start at power forward as Robert Covington missed his second straight game because of a lower-back contusion. Saric, the normal starting power forward, replaced Covington at small forward. That opened up the starting spot for Holmes.