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.”
Timberwolves: Derrick Rose led the Timberwolves with 15 points and Saric had 11 in his return. Covington sat out with a knee injury. Tyus Jones left with an injury in the third quarter.
76ers: Signed G Corey Brewer to a 10-day contract. He has career averages of 8.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 783 games.
WHAT A HALF
The team record for points in a first half is 86. The Sixers shot 66 percent (31 of 47) and had 21 assists on 31 baskets.
Butler had voiced his frustration with the state of the Timberwolves and was soon traded to the Sixers. The Sixers need more big games from him to contend.
“There are times that I wished he’d shoot more 3s. There are times I wished he’d put this thumbprint deeper into the game,” Brown said. “But he plays the game the right way.”
Sir Charles is ready for his close up.
Charles Barkley, the 76ers great whose retired No. 34 hangs in the rafters, is set to play a substitute gym teacher in Wednesday’s episode of “The Goldbergs.”
“In my gym, we’ve got two rules. Number one, we NEVER give up. Number two, aliens are real and they walk among us,” he says in the episode.
The 76ers honored broadcaster Marc Zumoff for 25 years as the team broadcaster. Zumoff has called more than 1,800 regular-season and 61 playoff games during his tenure. He was feted with video tributes and replays of some of his top calls. Zumoff’s likeness was on the pole pads on the stanchion of each basket.
“He needs a trophy for that 10-win season and still showing some level of enthusiasm,” Brown said.
Timberwolves: Host San Antonio on Friday.
76ers: Play Thursday at Indiana.