Philadelphia star center Joel Embiid and leading Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons made their season’s only visit to Target Center and left triumphant with a 118-112 overtime victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
Embiid’s counterpart, Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, left claiming he was the one who let the game get away.
Embiid’s two free throws with 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter forced overtime and his three-pointer with 1:38 left in overtime provided the punctuation on a night when Towns tried to match him punch for punch.
Leading by nine points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Wolves were outscored 41-26 the rest of the game. That happened despite Wolves star Jimmy Butler’s virtuoso performance on both ends of the floor and Towns’ first career game with at least three steals and three blocks.
After Butler made the second of two consecutive three-pointers for his team, the Wolves led 100-98 with 16 seconds left in regulation. But after a timeout, Embiid gained position on Towns near the basket, drew a foul and made both free throws, sending the game to overtime after Butler’s desperation shot just before the fourth-quarter buzzer missed.
In overtime, the 76ers ended a four-game losing streak by outscoring the Wolves 18-12.
“It should never have got there,” Towns said. “I should have made the play I needed to make. I failed my team tonight. Things like that happen. I’ve got to look in the mirror and I have to be better next game. It’s not good for me not to come through for my teammates.”
Asked what frustrated him most Tuesday, Towns said: “I’m more frustrated with 20 seconds left, they threw the ball to Joel Embiid and I didn’t make the stop I needed to make. My teammates trust me with the assignment, and I failed them. That hurts.”
After Wolves veteran Taj Gibson fouled out in the fourth quarter attempting to defend him, Embiid’s three-pointer gave the Sixers a 111-104 lead with 1:38 left in overtime, a deficit from which the Wolves couldn’t recover.
By the time it was over, Embiid had 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while Towns countered with a 19-point, 16-rebound, four-steal and three-block game while he played 47 minutes.
Meanwhile, Butler produced 38 points, six rebounds and three assists and shut down Simmons until the fourth quarter’s final minutes and overtime.
Simmons finished with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting and had eight assists after Butler forced him into missing his first four shots from the field.
Afterward, Butler was told Towns said the loss was his fault
“No, it’s not, man,” Butler said. “I don’t want to hear that. He didn’t go out there and play 5-on-1. No, he didn’t. We don’t want to hear that. We all could have done better as a team. That’s what this is about. It’s about this team and us as a unit.”
A late night because of an 8:30 p.m. tip for ESPN grew even later when Embiid’s two free throws with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter forced overtime.
Until then, the Wolves had led by nine points with less than six minutes remaining and twice trailed by two points in the final two minutes before Butler’s free throws gave them that 100-98 lead.
But Embiid established position on Towns near the basket, drawing the foul and the two free throws he made that forced overtime.
The Wolves used everyone from Towns and Gibson to Gorgui Dieng in an unsuccessful attempt to contain Embiid, whose play and presence led to Gibson fouling out early in overtime.
The Sixers scored the first six points of overtime, the last three after Wolves veteran guard Jeff Teague fouled JJ Redick on a three-point shot.
When Redick made all three, the Sixers led 106-100 with 3:03 left in overtime.
They led by as much as 112-104 as the final two minutes ticked away.
Butler’s defense held Simmons scoreless until the game’s final two minutes and his offense brought the Wolves home after they led by nine points with less than six minutes remaining and trailed by as many as nine points in overtime.
phila. 118, wolves 112 (OT)
Thurs: 7 p.m. vs. Sacramento (FSN Plus)