76ers unleash 81-point first half to rout Timberwolves
PHILADELPHIA— Jimmy Butler’s final miserable months in Minnesota were blighted by trash talk toward his teammates and a sour demeanor that forced the Timberwolves to trade him.
At home in Philadelphia, Butler is still working out the kinks with his new star teammates. But Butler had one final parting gift for his old team: a complete thrashing that left the Timberwolves in tatters.
Butler scored 19 points in the first meeting with Minnesota since the trade, and the 76ers scored 83 points in the first half in a 149-107 rout on Tuesday night.
“I do want to beat those guys,” Butler said, “but I want to beat every 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.
Joel Embiid had 31 points and 13 rebounds in a final tuneup before the Sixers hit a pivotal stretch of the season.
“We’ve got some heavyweights coming in but so be it,” coach Brett Brown said.
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 NBA heavyweights.
“Not to the level that I wished it was,” Brown said. “It’s not anything that I’m panicking about.”
They never had reason to worry about Minnesota.
The Sixers stuffed a season’s worth of highlights into 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.
Butler took a backseat in his first game since the Timberwolves sent him to the 76ers in a package deal that brought forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric in return.
“It was everything that I thought it would be,” Butler said. “Seeing some old faces. Not too much trash talking, though, I don’t think anybody’s talking like that. I like the fact that we beat them.”
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.
“It means they really appreciate what I did the last three years here,” Saric said. “I’m thankful for that. They really respect me.”
The Sixers found thumping the Timberwolves a breeze. They’re having a tougher time molding the Butler-Simmons-Embiid combination into a dominant 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.
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 midseason pickups and Brown needs more of that punch for a deep run in the East this season.
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 a sprained left ankle.
“We’ll look at the film and work on moving forward,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “Our communication was not up to our standards.”
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.
Timberwolves: Host San Antonio on Friday.
76ers: Play Thursday at Indiana.
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