The Philadelphia 76ers snapped a four-game slide with a win at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday while pushing their young stars harder than ever. The 76ers will try to avoid heavy minutes for the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Embiid logged a career-high 39 minutes in the 118-112 overtime win at Minnesota after missing the previous two games with a back injury and collected 28 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight assists in the victory. “We needed this,” Embiid told reporters after the win. “We lost four games, so we need this pretty bad. I was excited to come back. My goal is always to bring a lot of energy, obviously use my skill, but at the end of the day, just playing hard.” Few players play harder than Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, who struggled through a terrible shooting night on Wednesday but still managed to record a triple-double and lead his team to a 100-95 win at Indiana. The reigning MVP went for 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting, 17 rebounds and 12 assists to record his 35th triple-double of 2017, the most ever in a calendar year.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Oklahoma
ABOUT THE THUNDER (13-14): Westbrook wasn’t the only Oklahoma City star struggling from the field on Wednesday as Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 7-of-28 from the floor. “I think we’re just not used to (open shots), maybe,” Anthony told ESPN.com. “The way we get the shots, the way we get the ball, none of us are used to having it in that position, having it in certain spots on the court. Maybe being that wide open sometimes. But I don’t know, we’ve still gotta make shots.” The Thunder continue to get solid efforts from center Steven Adams, who scored a team-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting and is averaging 19 points on 71.3 percent shooting in seven games this month.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (14-13): Embiid isn’t the only Philadelphia youngster carrying a heavy load for the team, and Simmons paces the team in minutes (36.2) while offering 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists. “He’s handled this season with an incredible amount of poise, given that he’s never really played the position, or never played in the NBA,” coach Brett Brown told reporters of Simmons, according to the team’s website. “There are times when I‘m coaching him, he really doesn’t give the impression he’s fatiguing.” Simmons logged at least 36 minutes in each of the last eight games and went for 40 or more four times during that span.
1. 76ers SF Robert Covington (back contusion) sat out each of the last two games and is day-to-day.
2. Thunder SG Alex Abrines is 12-of-21 from 3-point range in the last three games.
3. Westbrook averaged 25 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.5 assists in two wins over Philadelphia last season.
PREDICTION: 76ers 105, Thunder 103