By Lewis Gould
Jimmy Butler scored 19 points in the first meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves since his trade to Philly and the Sixers scored 83 points in the first half in a 149-107 rout..
“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 Saricin 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 Philly’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.