January 02, 2017
The NBA schedule doesn’t have many marquee regular season matchups for teams at the lower end of the league like the Sixers. Sure, the building is full when LeBron James or the Golden State Warriors come to town, but all 82 games generally provide the opportunity to play against a big-time name or well-coached team so there is no time to look ahead.
But for the Sixers, tied with Brooklyn for the league’s lowest record at 8-24, Tuesday night’s game at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves definitely has some added significance.
The reason? Last time they played in November, a rare national television appearance for both teams, the Wolves blew out the Sixers by 24 points in a game that didn’t even feel that close.
“You know, it’s one of those games, since it ended, personally you just can’t wait to play them again,” Brett Brown said. “Our guys can’t wait to play them again, that was zero reflection of who we are. We had a win, we flew in, it was a back-to-back, we didn’t have really the juice that I think that we all wanted. For us, it’s a very forgettable game.
“I think it’s payback time. Since that game ended last time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so tomorrow I’m excited to go up against them again.”
“And so we look forward to just competing. I felt like we were out-physicaled, out-athleticed — it’s a word I just made up. We got jumped, and I feel like that’s just not us.”
Listening to the Sixers, you get the sense that they want to measure up against a Minnesota team that generally thought to have a very bright future around the league. As of now, the Sixers are only two games behind the Wolves in the standings (though Minnesota does have a far better point differential than their 11-23 record would indicate).
In the first matchup, the Wolves’ two young foundational pieces showed out. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for an easy 60 points and 20 rebounds, and Towns caught an eager Joel Embiid pretty bad with this pump-fake move:
“I felt like they punked us, they were just more physical than us,” Embiid said.
Embiid faced constant double-teams in that game, as Gorgui Dieng, not Towns, was his primary defender. Brown expects the big fella to see much of the same, with Wolves defenders largely disregarding T.J. McConnell, who is slated to get the bulk of the minutes at point guard.
While Embiid was quick to point out that this won’t be a nationally televised game (the bigger stage is important to him), he definitely wants another shot at Towns.
“I think it’s payback time,” Embiid said. “Since that game ended last time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so tomorrow I’m excited to go up against them again.”
McConnell will receive starter minutes because Sergio Rodriguez is doubtful with a left ankle sprain. He only participated in the scripting portion of practice.
Richaun Holmes, still in the NBA’s concussion management program, still is not practicing.
There is good news on Gerald Henderson, who was limited in Tuesday’s practice. After missing the last game in Denver, the 29-year-old veteran is probable with hip soreness.
After practice, Ben Simmons was out the floor doing some very informal shooting with his teammates:
At Sixers practice, Ben Simmons shooting around informally after. pic.twitter.com/79Lh5QgwvB— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) January 2, 2017
Brown was asked how his rehab was going, but wasn’t able to offer a timeline.
“Nobody really feels comfortable yet of giving dates,” Brown said. “I can tell everybody that he’s moving along just fine. It’s still obviously not to the point where he’s on a floor practicing, but nobody should be worried that his foot’s not healing just as we all had wished for.”
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann