Embiid dominates as Timberwolves fall in Philadelphia

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The Timberwolves’ defense has been an unsolvable Rubik’s Cube for most NBA offenses this season.

Joel Embiid cracked the code Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The reigning MVP poured in 51 points to go with 12 rebounds as the 76ers downed Minnesota 127-113 and snapped the Wolves’ three-game winning streak. The performance marked one of the few times this season the Timberwolves truly didn’t have an answer for something the opponent was presenting.

The Wolves were visibly upset with the officiating throughout the contest. Embiid did shoot 18 free throws — and he made 17 of them. But he dominated in every way imaginable. The big man went 17 for 25 from the field, including 9 for 12 from the mid-range.

Minnesota stayed in the game for much of the night with its offense. Karl-Anthony Towns was able to make hay on the interior to the tune of 23 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Edwards added 27 points, while Jaden McDaniels scored 21.

Rudy Gobert finished with eight points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes as he battled foul trouble most of the night. Embiid has gotten the better of the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year in each of their past two meetings.

“It’s tough when someone goes to the line 18 times and makes 17 of them, that’s a highly efficient offense. It’s tough to overcome that. And they shot over 53 percent. But certainly Rudy exiting the game in the first four minutes hurt us,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. “In general, we’ve got to play with more physicality around Embiid, and we didn’t.”

A strong start to the third quarter had Minnesota up seven with 20 minutes to play. But the Wolves were only able to score alongside the 76ers for so long. Embiid scored 19 points in the third quarter and the 76ers led by three heading into the final frame.

The dominance extended beyond Embiid, as his wingman, Tyrese Maxey, went off for 35 points of his own. Embiid started the fourth quarter on the bench, and Philadelphia managed to extend its lead before the center checked back into the game.

“We didn’t play a very clean or pretty game,” Finch said. “But I thought we were hanging in there and thought we’d find a little bit of a run or a rhythm, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do so.”

Fortunately for Minnesota (20-6), Wednesday marked the last meeting between Philadelphia (19-8) and the Wolves this season unless the two teams meet in the NBA Finals. Embiid missed the first meeting, a 112-99 Wolves win at Target Center on Nov. 22.

Minnesota has allowed more than 120 points in just six games this season. Five of those performances have come on the road.

The Timberwolves return home Thursday for a highly anticipated showdown with the Lakers. Both teams will be playing on the second half of a back-to-back. Los Angeles lost 124-108 to the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday.

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