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Road Trip Takeaways: A fracas in Philly

If the first three games of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves were reason to feel good about where things are at, Wednesday night’s game in Philadelphia wasn’t quite the same.

The Wolves lost 117-95 to the Sixers, but that’s not the story of the night.

In the third quarter of a blowout, Karl-Anthony Towns and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid were both ejected for fighting. This was the second time in Towns’ career that he’s been tossed from a game, and it was the first for Embiid.

There are a few ways to look at this moment for Towns and the Wolves. As for how you want to look at it, is your call. It’s not exactly a black and white issue, but here is how it could be viewed both good and bad.

Good: Towns standing up to the bully

The Wolves maybe haven’t been a punchline of jokes in the past, but they haven’t exactly been the most respected franchise in the league, either. This is a franchise that has just one playoff appearance since 2004. Minnesota is a franchise that is coming out of some dark days, believing that there are better days on the horizon.

Towns hasn’t exactly thrived against Embiid during his career. Embiid is one of the best all-around big men in the league, and notorious for talking trash both on and off the court. Last year after the Sixers embarrassed the Wolves during their first matchup against Jimmy Butler, Embiid took a jab on Twitter, bringing up the infamous Butler practice before he was traded away from Minnesota.

The Wolves are trying to build a new identity and culture. It’s not necessarily one they’d like to involve actual fighting on the court, but it’s one where they’re going to work as hard as they can. They’re a team trying to show they’re not scared of anyone. This is one way to do it, albeit, a way that will likely cost the team’s best player a couple of games due to suspension.

The Sixers are a popular pick by some to win the Eastern Conference. They have an immensely talented roster with Embiid being the best player on the roster. He’s one of the best big men in the league right now. He and his team are in the position that Towns and the Wolves hope to be one day soon.

Credit does go to Jeff Teague for helping to break things up, too. Teague isn’t exactly the largest guy in the NBA while Embiid is certainly close to it. The 6-foot-3 guard was able to pull Embiid off of Towns and get him on the ground rather quickly.

Philly’s Ben Simmons was the one that pulled Towns away, and he ended up on top of Towns with him in a chokehold. It should shock no one if the NBA does discipline him over the next couple of days.

Bad: It was a troubling sign that Towns lost his cool

The line of thinking that Towns shouldn’t engage with Embiid in any extracurriculars certainly exists. Embiid isn’t known as a fighter, but this isn’t the first time he’s been involved in a dustup of sorts. With the aforementioned trash talk being no secret, Towns certainly could have been the bigger person.

The Wolves without Towns for any stretch of time will face an uphill battle. He has to know just how important he is to the Wolves. There were a number of reasons that they were 3-0 entering the night in Philly, but none of those reasons were bigger than Towns. The team goes as he goes, and he can ill-afford to ever forget that.

After the game, Towns side-stepped every question he was asked after the game about the incident, just saying that it was a competitive game. It’s a fine approach to take publicly after the fact, but it’s certainly a different one than the approach taken by Embiid.

It’s probably a positive that Towns didn’t go that route after the game, but the fact that he did lose his cool on the court is a little bit discouraging. It’s not something that’s going to happen often, but the fact that it did happen can be considered mild cause for concern, at least.

This isn’t something people regularly see out of Towns – or should expect to see out of Towns in the future. But it is something that opponents are going to remember moving forward. There will be opponents constantly trying to get into Towns’ head the way that Embiid did. Most of the time it will probably be unsuccessful, but the few times it isn’t mean bad things for Towns and the Wolves.


Previous Story Towns and Embiid both ejected for fighting in Sixers-Wolves showdown Next Story Zulgad: Breaking point: Karl-Anthony Towns’ willingness to fight sends important message