MINNEAPOLIS — Trae Young walked into town a week ago and torched the Wolves to the tune of 43 points. Another star took his turn this Friday night, exposing the league’s 27th rated defense along the way. Joel Embiid crushed a team in total free fall with 37 points and 11 boards in 27 minutes. He didn’t even bother playing the 4th quarter. Philadelphia didn’t need him or Ben Simmons to finish the job.
Embiid thoroughly dominated Ed Davis with post-ups all night. He spent the first half living at the free-throw line, seemingly with the refs in his back pocket. Back tightness before the game? It certainly didn’t show. The massive Sixers center carried the load even after starting 2-10 from the floor. He got himself going by mixing in 10 free throw attempts in the first half—he was totally foul hunting and baiting the refs into every one of his flails and flops—before manhandling the Wolves in the third. He finished 10-19 from the field and 16-18 from the line, and as Ben Golliver wrote, Embiid and Nikola Jokic are bringing centers back into the NBA MVP conversation.
A transition slam by Simmons was about the time things started to unravel. 35 third-quarter points all but sealed the deal.
Make that 14 losses in 18 games to start the season in another blowout affair that once again highlighted the countless issues this squad faces on a nightly basis. The Sixers cruised to an effortless 118-94 win, displaying how large the gap is between both franchises. At 14-6, they are the top team in the East.
The stale 29th rated offense is killing the Wolves chances to be even relatively competitive, too. Once again it was a bevy of long-range bricks (8-for-29) and although they had a decent first-half showing (down 53-48), the ugly third quarter woes popped up. As Jack Borman noted, the Wolves are miserable in third quarters this season. That happened again. They are the worst in the NBA in the third with an average differential of -3.6 this year. They were 29th last year with an average differential of -2.7.
When other teams make halftime adjustments, the Wolves are often left in the dust. That has to be a coaching issue and it’s on Ryan Saunders and the entire staff.
Malik Beasley led the team with 22 points, though it took 19 shots to get there. Anthony Edwards made his first career start, scoring 15 points on 13 shots. Ricky Rubio’s struggles continue—he looks nowhere near the Rubio of last season, totally out of sorts. D’Angelo Russell made his return from a quad injury. He did not play well, adding 14 points and 4 assists in 25 minutes. The starters got ran off the court, all heavy negatives except for Josh Okogie (still -10 in 19 minutes). If there were any positives, youngsters like Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaden McDaniels, and Jaylen Nowell had a couple of good moments. That’s where things are at right now: some decent moments in another second-half collapse.
Our friend Eric blessed us with a haiku. Sadly, we are back to the same old talking points. The Wolves are battling the Wizards and Pistons for the honor of the worst team in the league without Karl-Anthony Towns in the fold to make them competitive.
As winter deepens— Eric Goldman (@ericinmadison) January 30, 2021
Wolves also frozen, ice cold
Same old talking points
As the losses continue piling up, it’s clear how overwhelmed this team is without their superstar. They had to use their 10th different starting lineup of the season, desperately looking for a spark against a far superior opponent. They’ll need to come up with something different for Sunday when Cleveland arrives, armed with another enormous center the Wolves aren’t equipped to handle in Andre Drummond.
If they don’t, they’ll get crushed again.