The Philadelphia 76ers are just about ready to parade their shiny new weapon that is making its debut this Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. What should we expect in this colossal matchup between two teams led by superstar unicorns?
Catch this game live on Saturday, February 26, at 9 AM, Manila time.
Away: Philadelphia 76ers (35-23/19-10 on the road)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Tyrese Maxey
- SG: James Harden
- SF: Matisse Thybulle
- PF: Tobias Harris
- C: Joel Embiid
It’s happening. James Harden is expected to make his debut for his new team this Saturday, as he is no longer listed in the injury report by the Sixers. That means the team that the Timberwolves will be facing next is significantly different – or better – from the Sixers version they beat, 121-120, in a double-overtime thriller in Philly last November. It could take time before Harden fully gels with his Sixers teammates, but dropping Harden on a team that already has James Embiid is terrifying. On the season, Harden is averaging 22.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 10.2 assists per game.
He is only shooting 41.4 FG% and 33.2 3FG% this season, but he will definitely still stretch the floor and find gaps on opposing defenses to the benefit of Joel Embiid, who mustered 42 points on 12/23 shooting in the loss to Minnesota. Embiid also went 16/21 from the free-throw line in that game, and he could expect to generate a lot of points off the foul line again. The Sixers are a top-five team in terms of free-throw rate, while the Sixers are in the top-five as well when it comes to fouls per contest. The Sixers now have two of the top three players (at least 20 MPG) in the league with the highest percentage of their points coming via free throws.
Home: Minnesota Timberwolves (32-28/18-11 at home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Patrick Beverley
- SG: D’Angelo Russell
- SF: Anthony Edwards
- PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
- C: Karl-Anthony Towns
This is a different Minnesota team that we are seeing, compared to the ones in previous years. These Timberwolves are regularly winning and have put themselves in a good position to make the playoffs. Karl-Anthony Towns may or may not be the greatest big-man shooter of all time, but he’s definitely shooting the lights out this season. He is averaging over 24 points per game on 50+ FG% and 40+3FG%. In the first meeting with Embiid and the Sixers this season, KAT had 28 points on 11/16 shooting, including a 3/5 line from behind the arc. After winning the 3-point contest during the All-Star break, there’s no stopping Towns from launching more from behind the arc.
But also don’t forget about D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, who are both offensive powerhouses themselves for the Timberwolves, who are one of the highest-scoring teams in the Association this season. Russell went off for 35 points in the win against the Sixers, while Edwards had 19 in the same game. Getting Harden doesn’t necessarily improve Philly’s defense, so there could be a ton of extra opportunities for Towns, Russell, and Edwards on offense. As good as Harden is, he can also hurt the Sixers with his turnovers, especially now that he’s still learning the team’s playbook. That could turn to more points for Minnesota, which is tops in the NBA in points off turnovers.
Spread: Who have the Timberwolves really beaten of late? They picked on the Detroit Pistons twice, went 1-1 against the Sacrament Kings, and won against the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets. And they’re playing on the second night of a back-to-back set. Taking the Sixers (-2.5).
Over/Under: Forget about what you think of the Sixers’ pace this season. Having James Harden will speed up the process of Philly’s offense and everyone knows how fast Minnesota plays. Taking the Over (228.0)