Last night I had the pleasure of being in attendance to watch the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time this season. Now if you saw the first one earlier this season on TNT, you were probably disappointed. I do not think the Sixers showed up that night as they once trailed by 30 in an absolutely atrocious effort. That blowout certainly played a role in last night’s contest.
If you have been following Joel Embiid off of the court this season, the man reads and hears EVERYTHING. After they first lost to the Timberwolves, the internet blew up with how Towns “destroyed” Embiid, which prompted the Sixers center to argue with some fans on Twitter to defend himself. Embiid also responded to DeMarcus Cousins by saying “I don’t think I’m going to have to wait until he retires to be the best in the league.” So because of all of the fan response to the blowout loss to the Timberwolves, you could see how motivated Embiid was for last night.
You could actually tell early on that the entire team was looking for revenge against the Timberwolves, at one point having a 26 point lead. But as things go for the Sixers, that lead promptly evaporated. That 26 point second half lead became a 91-91 tie after Ricky Rubio drilled a three with a couple of seconds remaining. Then, the overly criticized Robert Covington made a layup at the buzzer to catapult the Sixers to victory. But the best part of this game to me, was watching the incredible talent of the starting centers.
The battle last night between Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns was a showcase of the evolution of the center position. Both guys were scoring in the post, knocking down threes, hitting key free throws, and blocking shots. These two men were putting on a clinic, as Embiid finished with 25 points and 8 boards while Towns had 23 points and a game high 15 rebounds. At one point, Embiid provoked Towns into getting a technical foul, that is how competitive these two men were last night. Just watching these two men go at it down the stretch in this game was a joy to see. Each man getting the ball down low and going at each other. Towns would get a block one time down the floor, the next possession Embiid would score. Towns would then answer on the other end by drawing a foul on Embiid to shoot key free throws.
Watching these two young big men tonight, with the way they competed, made me think of a rivalry starting. Over the next 15 years, these two guys will be compared in the same way that LeBron was compared to Kobe in their primes. And I can not wait to see these guys play against each other in the upcoming years, hopefully in an NBA Finals.