After three weeks on the sidelines, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid returned to the court on Saturday night. For the most part, he picked up right where he left off, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds in a 122-113 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the middle of March, Embiid went up for a dunk against the Washington Wizards and suffered a scary looking knee injury when he landed. Despite initial fears that he could be done for the season, an MRI revealed no structural damage, and Embiid was diagnosed with a hyperextension and bone bruise.
After all the concern, Embiid ended up missing just three weeks, the Sixers went 7-3 with him out of the lineup and the only major negative of the whole process was that his MVP campaign took a major blow. Still, even though Philly managed to stay atop the Eastern Conference without him, they're thrilled to have their big man back in the lineup. And Saturday night showed why.
There were some moments of clear rust, as Embiid missed some shots around the basket, turned the ball over four times and picked up a flagrant foul as part of his ongoing feud with Karl-Anthony Towns. But generally he was his usual brilliant self, especially on the offensive end. There just aren't many big men in the league who can make plays like this.
As we've seen time and again this season, Embiid is simply too strong and athletic for opponents to deal with on a consistent basis. And when they get tired of giving up buckets they often have no choice but to start fouling. Against the Timberwolves, Embiid drew eight fouls and went 12 of 17 from the free throw line.
Overall this was a strong return to action for Embiid, and an important win for the Sixers to keep pace with the Nets for the No. 1 seed in the East. With fans back in arenas this season, seeding will matter much more than it did in the bubble, and having a healthy Embiid down the stretch will be huge for the Sixers.