One of the most anticipated games of the 76ers' season turned out to be a good ol' fashioned woodshed deal.
They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 149-107, Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. They improved to 29-16 with the victory. It also marked their fifth straight win in Philadelphia against the Timberwolves (21-23).
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The Sixers set three floor records in the victory -- points scored (149), points for a half (83 first-half points) and assists (40). Their 42-point win was their largest victory margin this season.
The Sixers also shot a season-best 59.8 percent from the field and made a season-high 21 three-pointers.
“We used our defense as a launching pad and did some good things there,” coach Brett Brown said. “But we really shared the ball. It was a perfect [situation] for us to be able to get a little bit more back on track. Some fist-bumps and high-fives, and 40 assists in a big number.”
There was a lot of hype surrounding this matchup. It was the first time Jimmy Butler faced the Timberwolves, the squad from which he forced a trade in November. This was also a Philly homecoming for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless, who were shipped by the Sixers to Minnesota in the trade.
Before tipoff, Butler walked to the Timberwolves bench to greet interim coach Ryan Saunders, who has a solid relationship with the four-time All-Star.
“It was everything I thought it would be,” Butler said of facing Minnesota. “Seeing some old faces. Not too much trash-talking. I don’t [like] anybody’s talking like that. But I like the fact that we beat them.”
Covington, Saric and Bayless received framed Sixers jerseys at their lockers before the game. The Sixers also did a video tribute for the trio. Covington has a bone bruise on his right knee and didn’t play.
Butler was at odds with Minnesota’s front office and wasn’t a good fit with the Timberwolves' young stars, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. He wanted out and the Sixers needed a third star to play alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. So two months after the Nov. 12 trade, he was on the positive side of the Sixers' biggest rout of the season.
If Butler was motivated to play his former squad, he sure didn’t show it. The eighth-year veteran took what was given to him in the flow of the game instead of trying to take things over.
He still managed to score 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting (3 of 4 three-pointers) to go with four assists, two steals and a block. Butler sat out the fourth quarter.
“I do want to beat those guys, but I want to be every team. That’s for sure," he said. "But, like I said, winning at home is always good. That large of a margin is always great, too, because guys get rest.
“But I’m taking any and all wins -- not just against the Timberwolves.”
Embiid finished with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds, while dominating the head-to-head matchup against co-All-Star Towns (13 points on 4-for-10 shooting). Simmons had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Like Butler, Simmons sat out the fourth quarter. Embiid played 1 minute, 36 seconds in the quarter.
Afterward, Embiid trolled the Timberwolves on social media. He tweeted, “It was an honor to be [a] part of the 3rd stringers and get a win against real NBA starters #TheProcess."
That was in reference to Butler’s highly publicized blowout during a Timberwolves practice on October. At the time, he led the third-string players to a win over the starters while shouting expletives toward general manager Scott Layden, the coaches and players.
Corey Brewer, who signed a 10-day contract earlier in the day, had three points, two rebounds and two assists in 8:07 of action.
Derrick Rose paced the Timberwolves with 15 points off the bench. Saric, a reserve power forward, added 11 points. Bayless had one assist.
The game was basically over by intermission. The Sixers had a commanding 83-58 advantage while shooting 66 percent.
“That wasn’t no normal game,” Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague said. “Them dude [were] at our heads. Jimmy wanted to beat us. We all know that. Joel Embiid wanted to beat KAT. That ain’t a normal game.”
The Sixers honored Marc Zumoff during the game. This marks his 25th season as the team’s TV play-by-play broadcaster. He has called 1,883 regular-season and 61 playoff games. Zumoff rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell right before tipoff. The Sixers honored him with a video tribute and presented him with a statue in the second quarter.