The 76ers (41-30) have won five games in a row, and in doing so have worked their way into the top four of the Eastern Conference standings.
The latest win was a comfortable 118-98 victory over the Magic. Ben Simmons put up a double-double with rebounds and assists, while Ersan Ilyasova was handy with 18 points off the bench.
The Timberwolves are similarly placed at 42-31, though they are in seventh place in the west. Their place in the playoffs isn’t yet safe, as they sit just two games ahead of Denver, but a couple of wins could see them catapult up to fourth.
Minnesota suffered a scare yesterday against the Knicks, thanks largely to Tim Hardaway Jr’s 39 points, but they escaped with a 108-104 win. Karl-Anthony Towns was their leading scorer with 24 points.
Three keys to the game
Travelling Timberwolves – Minnesota haven’t been good on the road this season, and this has been plain to see in recent weeks. They are 15-22 away from home, and in their last 13 road games, they have won just three. Philadelphia are 23-11 at home, so the Timberwolves will need a major turnaround in fortune to win this one.
Rebounding – Minnesota have been around league average in this department this season, but they will have their work cut out on the glass against the best rebounding side in the league. The 76ers grab 52.7% of available rebounds, almost 1% higher than their nearest rival.
Can the 76ers take care of the ball? – The 76ers turn it over on 16.7% of their offensive possessions, easily the most in the league. The Timberwolves are dangerous in this department, with their 17.6 points per game off turnovers the sixth most in the league, so Philadelphia will need to be careful in this game.
Matchup to watch
Karl-Anthony Towns vs Joel Embiid – Two of the best young players in the league will go head-to-head at the center position in this game. Towns hasn’t been used offensively as much as he was last season, and his points average has taken a hit, but he has been efficient, particularly of late. He shoots 55% from the floor on the way to 20.9 points and is hitting a huge 42.9% from beyond the arc.
Embiid takes his fair share of 3-pointers, but is nowhere near as effective, hitting just 31.1% of long-range attempts. His 48.3% from the field is significantly lower than Towns, but he has been good on the way to averages of 23.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks. He is also in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, something Towns is not, and he will make the Timberwolves’ young center work hard for his points.
Philadelphia 76ers predicted starting lineup
PG – Ben Simmons | SG – JJ Redick | SF – Robert Covington | PF – Dario Saric | C – Joel Embiid
PG – Jeff Teague | SG – Andrew Wiggins | SF – Nemanja Bjelica | PF – Taj Gibson | C – Karl-Anthony Towns
The two centers both had huge games in the single matchup between the sides so far this season. In the overtime thriller, Embiid flirted with a triple-double, adding 28 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists to lead his 76ers to victory. Towns didn’t score as heavily but filled the stat sheet with his 19 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, four blocks, and three steals.
The oddsmakers have had a look at the Timberwolves away record and have given them a huge 7.0 point head start in what should be a close game. The 76ers will get over the line, but it should be close, so take Minnesota to cover this line.
Both sides have plenty to play for, so expect this to be a hard-fought contest. Towns and Embiid will be the two most influential players on the floor and will recreate their battle from earlier in the season to both put up big stat lines.
Teague has been playing well of late, but Simmons is a nightmare matchup for any player in the NBA and will go close to a triple-double in this one. With the Australian and Embiid leading the charge, the 76ers will run out 108-105 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on NBCSP and Fox Sports Net North. Tip-off is at 6pm ET.
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