The Philadelphia 76ers aim to remain perfect on their five-game homestand on Saturday, playing the second leg of a back-to-back when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Philadelphia won for the fourth time in the past five games, and the third time on the homestand, when it downed the Milwaukee Bucks 110-102 on Friday. Joel Embiid went for 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to power the Sixers to a second-half comeback.
Shake Milton came off the Philadelphia bench to score 15 points and dish six assists. He finished with a game-high plus-minus of plus-17, stepping up after starter Tyrese Maxey exited the game due to a left foot injury.
“We knew we had Tyrese down, unfortunately, so I knew I had to step up,” Milton said after the game. “The team does a really good job of grounding everybody. … I just tried to step up and make plays for my team to help us win.”
Maxey, who will undergo an MRI exam on Saturday, had 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor when he sustained the injury on Friday. He is averaging 22.9 points per game on the season.
A potential Maxey absence from the lineup adds to Philadelphia’s backcourt woes with James Harden already sidelined due to a strained right foot. Harden, who is averaging 22 points and 10 assists per game, hasn’t played since Nov. 2 and isn’t expected to return this month.
The Sixers will look for answers in pursuit of a fourth straight win as they face a Minnesota team that has a two-game winning streak.
After dropping 6 of 7, including the first game on its current four-game road swing, Minnesota has produced two of its highest-scoring performances of the season in back-to-back wins at Cleveland and Orlando.
The Timberwolves jumped out to big early leads in both contests. The 126-108 defeat of the Magic on Wednesday deviated from the 129-124 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, however, with Minnesota’s ability to maintain its comfortable edge throughout.
Anthony Edwards, who scored a season-high 35 points in Orlando, attributed the wire-to-wire dominance of the Magic of growing chemistry among the Timberwolves’ starting five.
“We took a big leap as far as the confidence and camaraderie with the first group,” Edwards said.
That group is headed by Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, who are each averaging 21.9 points per game. Center Rudy Gobert, acquired in an offseason trade with the Utah Jazz, is averaging 14.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest, and D’Angelo Russell delivered his best offensive performance of the season with 30 points and 11 assists at Cleveland.
Russell is up to 14.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. With Jaden McDaniels adding another 11.1 points per game, the entire Minnesota starting lineup is averaging in double figures.
“The starting unit is doing its job now,” Towns said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but noted that facing Philadelphia to close the road trip would provide a greater measuring stick. “We’re doing good, but we got some good tests to see how much we really are improving.”
Saturday marks the end of Minnesota’s road trip.
–Field Level Media