MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his 76ers debut, Joel Embiid added 34 points and 10 rebounds, and Philadelphia routed the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-102 on Friday night.
Philadelphia finally got to see how their star duo worked together after Harden missed his first two games after the Brooklyn trade with a hamstring injury. The results were promising, especially where Embiid and Harden thrive – at the free throw line.
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Embiid, who made 21 free throws in a double-overtime loss to Minnesota in November, was 11 of 13 from the line. Harden was 8 of 9 as the 76ers went 30 of 36 overall.
Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 25 points and D’Angelo Russell had 21. But the Timberwolves couldn’t replicate Philadelphia’s dramatic victory earlier this season.
The 76ers didn’t have Harden — or Ben Simmons, who was traded to Brooklyn along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks for Harden — in November.
Harden, the 2018 MVP, hadn’t played since Feb. 2 due to the injury, delaying his pairing with Embiid. Philadelphia thinks it finally has the top duo, and a solid third piece in Tobias Harris, to break into the Eastern Conference.
The 76ers started the day third in the East. They won four out of five.
In Philadelphia’s first game after the All-Star break, Embiid controlled the first quarter from the line. He shot 7 of 8 on free throws and had 10 points and six rebounds in the quarter.
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The 76ers used a 15-0 run to take a 16-6 lead and never trailed again.
Minnesota, fresh off a 119-114 win over Memphis the night before, came 51-48 late in the second quarter. But Philadelphia ended the half on a 15-1 run after Mattisse Thybulle dunked back just before the buzzer on a missed 3-pointer from Harris.
76ers: Harris had just six points, but his defense on Towns forced an off-night shot for the All-Star Timberwolves. Tyrese Maxey scored 28. … Coach Doc Rivers didn’t reveal his starting roster before the game, but Harden ended up starting with Embiid, Harris, Maxey and Thybulle. … Philadelphia was 19 of 39 of 3.
Timberwolves: G Michael Beasley was out with a non-COVID-19 illness. … Minnesota had 16 turnovers, 11 in the first half. … Towns was 3 of 14 from the field for three quarters.
76ers: In New York on Sunday to open a home-and-away series.
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Timberwolves: At Cleveland on Monday night.