NBA on Sling: Sixers and T'Wolves in the Battle of the Youth Movements, Jimmy Butler Leads the Charge as Bulls Take on Jazz

Nov 17, 2016 by Sling Staff

Philadelphia 76ers (2-9) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (3-7)
8pm ET on TNT

More than seven months after Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was sent packing, the team finds itself with the second-worst record in the NBA at 2-9. To be fair, they’ve been without #1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who had foot surgery and isn’t expected back any time soon, but still… Just last night, however, the Sixers doubled their win total by beating the Wizards 109-102, with Jahlil Okafor leading the team in scoring with 19 on 8-of-11 shooting, while Sergio Rodriguez dished out 12 assists to go along with with 7 points. The Sixers got it done with ball movement, as they had a season high 30 assists, leading to enough open looks that they shot a season high 55% from the floor. Long awaited 2014 #1 overall pick Joel Embiid, who sat out last night in deference to his still healing foot, is averaging 18 points 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, but also 4.7 turnovers. In addition to Simmons, Philly will be without the services of Okafor, who needs a rest, and Nerlens Noel who continues to recover from knee surgery.

It’s not easy to win when your three leading scorers are all barely old enough to drink, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are giving it a go. The 2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins (27-4-2), 2016 RoY Karl-Anthony Towns (22-9-3) and two-time defending dunk champion Zach LaVine (19-4-2) are putting points on the board, leading the best 3-point shooting squad in the NBA (42%), putting them on course to be the first NBA team ever to have three 21-year-olds averaged 19+ ppg – in fact, no team has had two. But the defense is lacking, as they’ve allowed the highest field goal percentage of any team at 48% and the third-most rebounds, and are 24th in blocks. On Tuesday they fell to the Hornets 115-108, as Charlotte’s Kemba Walker dropped 30 on them, and the T’wolves got out-shot 54%-43%.

Chicago Bulls (7-4) vs Utah Jazz (7-5)
*10:30pm ET on TNT

It’s hard to know what to make of the new look Bulls. They’ve lost to the Knicks and Pacers, and barely survived the Heat, but on Tuesday they trounced the Portland Trail Blazers to the tune of 113-88 with all five starters scoring in double figures. Jimmy Butler led his team in points, rebounds and assists, posting a 27-12-5, while Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez each had double-doubles. Neither team could hit the ocean from a boat, as the Bulls shot 42% from the floor, Portland just 36%, but Chicago worked the boards relentlessly, out rebounding the Blazers 67-49, with the Bulls total representing the season high for any team in the league. The Bulls were without Rajon Rondo, and may be again tonight.

When Gordon Hayward shoots 4-of-14 from the floor for 13 points, and George Hill doesn’t even suit up, the Jazz are gonna have trouble, as they did Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies, losing 102-96. Utah actually took the lead briefly in the 4th quarter, but Mike Conley responded with a trey to put Memphis up 88-86. A Boris Diaw layup would briefly tie things up, but a pair of Andrew Harrison free throws would put Memphis ahead for good. Hill came over in an off-season trade, and has been outstanding when he’s been on the court, averaging 20.4 ppg on 54% shooting, both of which would be career highs, but he’s only played in their first 7 games, and has since been sidelined with a sprained thumb. Hayward, conversely, missed the first 6 games – if they could get both those dudes on the floor at the same time, they might make a little noise. Rodney Hood (17.4 ppg) and Rudy Gobert (9.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg) have been holding down the fort, but they need help. Hill and Hood are both questionable for tonight.

Watch the Sixers vs T’wolves at 8pm ET, followed by the Bulls vs Jazz at 10:30pm ET Thursday on TNT by subscribing to Sling Orange or Sling Blue

All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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