Coming off big win, Wolves face Embiid-less 76ers
It isn't too often that a team with a losing record has to guard against a letdown.
But the sight of the Philadelphia 76ers ought to irritate the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
One night after recovering from a 14-point halftime deficit to post a 131-130 overtime upset of the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota (34-41) will host the 76ers, the team that handed them the second-worst whipping in franchise history on Jan. 15.
Philadelphia rolled to a 149-107 home victory over the Timberwolves that night, so it begs the question of whether the emotional comeback win over the defending NBA champions can be cast aside quickly enough to muster another strong effort.
Helping matters is that 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid will be held out for the rest. Philadelphia (48-27) is more concerned with having the big man healthy for the postseason than playing him in every game down the stretch, and sitting out will certainly aid his tender left knee.
The Timberwolves won't miss trying to defend Embiid as they look to follow up the impressive victory over the Warriors.
After forcing the extra session, Minnesota led by nine with 1:41 left in the overtime but gave up the entire lead as Golden State's Stephen Curry drained the tying 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left.
But Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass. He made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second as Minnesota won for just the second time in the past eight games.
"I'm just proud to be part of this group and proud to be part of the resolve in that room," interim coach Ryan Saunders told reporters afterward. "The selflessness of our team ... that is a big win. That's a win that can propel you. You see the work you are putting in as players feels good."
Small forward Andrew Wiggins had 24 points for his fifth straight 20-point game. Towns had 15 points and 13 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double but he was just 5 of 17 from the field.
After the contest, Towns gave his support to Saunders to be the team's coach next season.
"I think he has done a lot to earn it," Towns told reporters. "Our record may not be what we want to be, but the culture he's building and the excitement fans are feeling about this team, you can't make up. ... I think he's a great candidate for the job."
The 76ers have won seven of their past nine games and are coming off a solid 123-110 home victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
Embiid led the way with 39 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
The sharp performance came after Philadelphia lost consecutive road games to the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic.
"We talked candidly, like who are we? And how do I make sure I help us be what you guys want to be?" 76ers coach Brett Brown told reporters.
"We all understand what our mission is, and we do not have the history, like the Warriors and like the Celtics as well. There's a history there that maybe they can click their heels and all of a sudden, 'Oh, it's playoffs,' and take off. They have the ability to do that," Brown said.
"I just feel like we need to experience more time together playing well and understand what playing well looks like."
Philadelphia forward Jimmy Butler, who began the season with Minnesota before having his trade request granted, scored 19 points in January's trouncing of the Timberwolves.
The 76ers have won the past four meetings.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019