The Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves had a combined record of 5-16 heading into their game on Thursday night, which may not seem an ideal matchup to be featured on TNT.
But the network folks understand that these two long-suffering franchises boast some of the most intriguing young talent in the league. And the Timberwolves showed just how much further along they are in the rebuilding process.
Andrew Wiggins had 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists to lead the Timberwolves to a 110-86 victory over the 76ers.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Gorgui Dieng added 12 points and 10 boards for the Wolves (4-7). The Wolves shot 50.6 percent and avoided the poor third quarter that had plagued them this season.
”I think that they’re a lot further ahead for all the obvious reasons, and it’s not a lack of respect or disservice to our guys at all,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. ”This group that you’re looking at played with each other all last year, many, many, many, many games together.”
Joel Embiid had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes after sitting out the front end of Philadelphia’s back-to-back on Wednesday night. Dario Saric led the way with 16 points, but the 76ers lost their 21st straight road game.
”They’re young and they’re still going to get better, and that’s where we’ve got to get to,” Embiid said. ”When you learn how to play with each other, it’s easier to play.”
Wiggins made 14 of 20 shots, including 3 of 6 3-pointers. The Wolves had been outscored by a league-worst 91 points in 10 third quarters this season, but they led by 28 at halftime on Thursday night, rendering a minus-1 in this game moot.
”At times last year I would drift to the corner and stay there,” Wiggins said. ”I’m just being more active. My awareness is higher. I’m doing more.”
In a matchup of two of the best young big men in the league, Towns blew past Embiid to throw down a ferocious dunk in the fourth quarter to get the crowd on its feet. He made 12 of 18 shots.
76ers: The last time the Sixers won a road game was Jan. 20 at Orlando. … Nik Stauskas had 13 points and five rebounds. … Philly scored just 33 points on 31 percent shooting, tied for its lowest scoring output of the season.
Timberwolves: Wiggins entered the game leading the NBA in 3-point shooting at 55 percent. … F Shabazz Muhammad (sore right knee) and G/F Brandon Rush (right big toe) were both out again.
Embiid missed the first two seasons after being drafted because of foot problems, and even in visiting arenas there is an audible gasp every time the 7-foot center falls to the court. He got tangled with Ricky Rubio early in the first quarter and appeared to be clutching his left ankle as he went to the bench. He was able to return in the second quarter, much to the relief of NBA fans everywhere.
”He waited so long to actually play and now he’s dominating,” said Wiggins, who was college teammates with Embiid at Kansas. ”He’s playing short minutes, but he’s still getting numbers and playing really good.”
Embiid hit the deck again in the fourth when Wolves forward Adreian Payne threw him down while wrestling for a rebound. Payne was given a technical foul.
The Wolves announced attendance of 16,866, easily the largest of the year. It came one game after the arena was half-empty for a game against Charlotte. The low attendance early has been a troubling sign for an organization that was hoping to turn the corner this season.
The Wolves targeted this game and select others to cluster their group tickets in hopes of padding attendance. They also offered season ticket holders two free additional tickets to the game to try to get more fans, which have been slow to spend their money this season thanks to Minnesota’s 3-7 start, out to the game.
76ers: Head back home to host Phoenix on Saturday.
Timberwolves: Hit the road after a four-game home stand to face Memphis for the third time already this season.
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