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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 31 points and 13 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers scored 83 points in the first half in a 149-107 thrashing of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Jimmy Butler’s first game against his former team.
The Golden State Warriors were the only team to score more first-half points in a game this season when they dropped 92 on the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 29. The Sixers hit a team-record 21 3-pointers and reached their highest point total in the 22-year history of the Wells Fargo Center.
Butler scored 19 points in the first meeting with Minnesota since it sent him to the 76ers in a package deal that brought forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric in return. Covington and Saric were popular core pieces of Philadelphia’s Trust the Process rebuild and both received massive ovations from an appreciative crowd in tribute videos.
The Sixers stuffed a season’s worth of highlights in the first half. They cut to the hoop with ease for layups and big Ben Simmons dunks. They buried mostly uncontested 3-pointers — 10 of 20 in the half — and even made all 11 free throws.
Simmons, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds, flexed and Embiid waved his arms to an adoring crowd after big baskets.
The easy part was over.
Yes, it was a breeze to thump the Timberwolves but the Sixers are a team still trying to make the Butler-Simmons-Embiid combination a Big 3 instead of a big mystery. The Sixers have a thin bench and are experimenting with rotations to find the right ones that can make them evolve into the Eastern Conference favorites they expected to become this season.
“Fighting every single day for the souls and the spirit of the team is maybe the most important thing I can do,” coach Brett Brown said. “Maybe it’s not at the place you wished it was. But it’s also Jan. 15th. It’s true. We’ve got some heavyweights coming in but so be it.”
The Sixers needed the breather against Minnesota. They play their next 12 games against teams with winning records and the Sixers are not quite where Brown wants them as they go toe-to-toe with those heavyweights.
“Not to the level that I wished it was,” Brown said. “It’s not anything that I’m panicking about.”
Sixers rookie general manager Elton Brand hits the Feb. 7 trade deadline with a major mission: strengthen the reserves. Former Sixers Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova steadied the Sixers last season as mid-season pickups and Brown needs more of that punch for a deep run in the East this season.
“We understand we’re going to need a little bit more from the bench as time unfolds and the serious side of the season begins,” Brown said. “We’re all mindful of that and I think Elton is going to do a great job on helping us move forward.”
(©Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)