Preview: James Harden debuts for the 76ers against the Timberwolves
After nine days without 76ers basketball, the Sixers are back on the hardwood tonight in Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves.
The T-Wolves come into tonight’s matchup four games over .500 with a 32-28 record. Minnesota currently holds the seven seed in the West standings, two-and-a-half games ahead of the Clippers. It is important to note that this contest against the 76ers will be the second-leg of a home back-to-back for the Timberwolves, who got a big win over the Grizzlies last night.
The 76ers come into tonight’s contest with a 35-23 record, good for the third seed in the East standings. Currently, Philly is just a half-a-game back from the Heat for the second spot in the standings with both teams playing tonight. This will be the Sixers first game back in action since the All-Star Break, and it will be interesting to see if Philly can catch the T-Wolves off guard with their extra rest.
James Harden’s First Game as a Sixer
It is finally here, after being acquired mere hours before the February 10th trade deadline James Harden will hit the court as a member of the 76ers. The Sixers and Harden wanted to be extra cautious with a nagging hamstring injury and rested him almost three weeks to insure his health for the final stretch of the regular season.
Now, the duo many 76ers fans dreamed of watching will finally become a reality tonight. The James Harden-Joel Embiid pick and roll will be in full effect tonight in Minnesota. Now is the time for the Sixers to make their run, a run with a fully healthy James Harden who’s ready to win in Philly.
- McKinley Wright IV (Out)
Doc Rivers’ Player Rotations
One of the biggest flaws in Doc Rivers’ coaching in his short time with the 76ers has been his questionable rotations. While the regular season rotations and playoff rotations differ, there is no denying Rivers has put out some terrible lineups especially in the playoffs. With the addition of James Harden, Paul Millsap, and now Willie Cauley-Stein, tonight will be the first glimpse at Rivers’ plans for the new 76ers lineup.
Rivers has been known and heavily scrutinized for his over-utilization of all-bench lineups during his time in Philly. Surprisingly, Rivers made it a point to express his desire to make sure one of Embiid, Harden, Harris, and Maxey are on the court at all times. More recently, Doc even doubled down on this new philosophy, suggesting that two of his four stars will be on the court at any given moment during a game.
Now running all bench lineups in the regular season is fine with the rigor of an NBA schedule, but if Rivers can stick to this for the playoffs it could be game-changing. There were a lot of things that went wrong in the 76ers postseason run last year, one of the biggest being Rivers’ lineup rotations. Fix that issue before this year’s run and the league better watch out come April.
Contain the T-Wolves’ Big Three
The Timberwolves may be the current recipient of the worst franchise in all of professional American sports statistically, but this year Minnesota has seemingly turned a leaf. Thanks in large part to their formation of Minnesota’s own big three with Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards.
Now Joel Embiid has already shown the ability to contain KAT pretty well in the few times they’ve matched up, but the “best shooting big man in the league” is still averaging 24 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. Behind him, sophomore Anthony Edwards averages 21 points a game, while D’Angelo Russel puts out 19 points and 7 assists on his own as well.
The problem for the T-Wolves comes down to their depth. Past their big three only one player averages double-digit points with Malik Beasley’s 12 a game. Add in the fact this team just played the night before, and the 76ers could run away with this game when KAT, Edwards, and Russell get a breather. Especially if Doc Rivers decides to keep two of his stars on the court at all times with the team fully rested.
Tonight’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|Philadelphia 76ers||-132||-2.5 (-108)||O 229 (-112)|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||+108||+2.5 (-114)||U 229 (-109)|
This one is going to be brief, there is no world where the 76ers lose this game. On top of that, the T-Wolves playing the night before makes me positive the Sixers win by more than a triple in James Harden’s debut. Give me that easy spread, and if you’re looking for more bets for tonight’s matchup click here.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Slocum.