PHILADELPHIA (AP) — After his 10th triple-double, Ben Simmons was asked if he’s done enough to lock up NBA Rookie of the Year award.
“I think so,” he said.
Hard to argue.
Simmons had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists, Joel Embiid dazzled while getting the better of Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Philadelphia 76ers inched closer to their first playoff berth in six years with a 120-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Simmons had his triple-double by late in the third quarter. His crisp passes brought gasps from the crowd. His rebounding was solid. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is a new kind of point guard.
“The play I’ve had over the season has been pretty consistent,” Simmons said. “I’m doing some things that haven’t been done in a while.”
Embiid also got his share of adoration from the home crowd. He scored 19 points, and had a left-handed block of Towns, a 3-pointer and a windmill dunk in the Sixers’ 20-4 run to start the third quarter.
“That’s the second time this year that I did it,” Embiid said about the windmill. “I’m a 7-footer. I think I can jump. Sometimes I can jump high whenever I want to.”
The Sixers are a confident bunch after their sixth straight win. Dario Saric added 18 points as the Sixers (42-30) ensured a winning season and moved within one win or Detroit loss from their first postseason appearance since 2012.
Andrew Wiggins scored 16 points, and Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 15 from the field for Minnesota as its two-game winning streak was snapped.
The Sixers outscored the Wolves 39-19 in the third quarter to break open a close game.
“They got some easy baskets and once you get momentum, it’s tough,” said Wolves guard Jamal Crawford, who scored 13 points. “They started playing off of confidence. They hit tough shots. They played with more energy. They really took it to us.”
Embiid provided the biggest roar when his acrobatic, breakaway dunk made it 79-56 with 6:39 left. After Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout, Embiid egged on the crowd by raising his arms and screaming.
Coach Brett Brown was forced to reinsert Simmons and Embiid with 2:39 left after the Wolves’ reserves cut a 29-point deficit to 111-101.
Thibodeau had the Wolves foul Simmons, a poor free-throw shooter, twice intentionally. But Simmons went 3 of 4 from the line and Minnesota got no closer than nine points.
“The starters were pretty flat, so that group gave us good energy,” Thibodeau said. “I thought Aaron (Brooks’) ball pressure really got us going. That brought energy to the group. And then I thought Tyus (Jones) and Aaron together were good. And Gorgui (Deng) and Cole (Aldrich) played with a physicality.”
The matchup of Embiid vs. Towns fizzled with Towns struggling and getting into foul trouble. Minnesota, which entered in seventh place in the Western Conference, shot 38 percent from the field.
“It’s not a one-on-one battle because every time we play I guard him the whole game and he doesn’t,” Embiid said. “I want to show that I’m the best big man in the league, but he’s really good at what he does. . I thought tonight I did a pretty good job on him.”
Timberwolves: Towns has an NBA-high 61 double-doubles. … Minnesota fell to 6-6 since Jimmy Butler’s knee injury. … The Wolves are 12-17 against the Eastern Conference and 30-15 against the West. … G Derrick Rose (right ankle) missed a second straight game.
76ers: Simmons has the most triple-doubles for the franchise since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in the 1967-68 season. … The Sixers moved alone into fourth place in the East, one game behind third-place Cleveland.
Brown said Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz will return this season only if he declares himself ready after struggling to regain his shooting stroke following a shoulder issue.
Simmons warmed up and was introduced while wearing a blue “March for our Lives” T-shirt as students from around the country demonstrated against gun violence.
“For me growing up in Australia, I think there was a gun ban way back in the day where they bought back the guns and there hasn’t been any major shootings and no one carries around guns,” Simmons said. “You want kids to feel safe going to school.”
Timberwolves: Host Memphis on Monday night.
76ers: Host Denver on Monday night.
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