Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid made his return to the floor on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and he had a solid game scoring 24 points with eight rebounds, but he definitely looked a little off. That is to be expected when he hadn’t played a game in three weeks.
After a couple of days off, Embiid came out strong and he had 35 points and six rebounds in a 106-96 win over the Boston Celtics on the road. It was another big showing for the MVP candidate and it was something that he can now build on to get himself back in shape.
“He had great rhythm today,” said coach Doc Rivers. “Then I thought he was very patient too. I thought our passing when they doubled was fantastic. They almost got into a pick your poison spot and that’s what we want Joel to be.”
The biggest thing that stood out was Embiid getting to the foul line 20 times. He knocked down 16 of them on his way to the big night and it was something that has defined the big fella all season.
“We’re walking out and he turned to me and said ‘I’m back’ and I said ‘Yeah, I noticed’,” laughed Rivers. “He was not happy after the first game coming back. He expects so much, you miss three-plus weeks, you’re not going to be that good, and the first showing. I thought the other night allowed him to get some more work in and then playing tonight was big for him.”
While it was clear that Embiid had himself a pretty big night, he did not have the type of game that he believes he is all the way back just yet. He did say that this was a good step in the right direction following the Minnesota game.
“I’m not all the way there, but tonight was a big step especially going from the Minnesota game,” Embiid explained. “Going into these games and stuff, I haven’t really got in any 5-on-5’s so the Minnesota game was a little rough going up and down. Tonight, I felt better, but I still have a long way to go before I get back to where I was before I got hurt.”
Embiid will take this team as far as he can take them. They will go as he goes and that is what is going to have to be his mindset all throughout the rest of this season and going into the playoffs.
“I’m definitely super happy to see him back healthy, especially,” said Furkan Korkmaz. “He’s been playing well for us all year. We know what he’s gonna do on the court, but off the court, it’s good to see him be more mature. I can tell he’s a grown man right now on the court, off the court.”
That mindset is what is going to carry Embiid and the Sixers the rest of the way. He has a nastiness streak to him right now and he knows it. It doesn’t matter who is in front of him.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in front of me,” he stated bluntly. “As we’ve seen all season, it doesn’t really matter who has been in front of me. I just attack every single game I want to be aggressive. I want to get the other bigs in foul trouble, I want to get to the bonus early so now they’re going to stop playing physical. Even if they play physical I’m going to use that to my advantage to get the free-throw line.”