Playoffs

Joel Embiid posts 24 points, leads 76ers to win in return from knee injury

Joel Embiid posts 24 points, leads 76ers to win in return from knee injury

The question of when Joel Embiid will return to the Philadelphia 76ers lineup was finally answered Tuesday. A few hours later, he was leading the Sixers to a win in his first game in more than two months.

Facing the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder, Embiid 24 points on 6-of-14 shooting, six rebounds, seven assists, three steaks and six turnovers in 29 minutes. He re-introduced himself with a jump shot while surrounded by three defenders:

The former MVP came up biggest at the end of the game, making four straight free throws to push the Sixers ahead and notching a steal off Josh Giddey in a pivotal possession for the Thunder with 28 seconds remaining:

Embiid was clearly happy to be back.

"Usually, when I get hurt, I move on to the next one. This one took a toll mentally," Embiid said after the game "I just wanted to come back .. This one was probably the hardest by far, mentally."

A win over the Western Conference-leading Thunder is clearly big for the Sixers, though the Thunder were without their top 2 leading scorers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams. Chet Holmgren led the team in scoring with 22 points in their absence.

Embiid's status was changed to questionable shortly before Tuesday's game, leading to speculation that the reigning NBA MVP could indeed return to the court. Additional reporting from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed the big man was back.

Sixers coach Nick Nurse did not confirm that Embiid would play, only that he was working on the court during pregame. But he did acknowledge that the center would likely be on a minutes restriction when he returns from the injury.

Embiid, 30, has been out with injury since Jan. 30. Struggling with pain in his left knee, he was diagnosed with a meniscus injury that required surgery. At the time of his injury, Embiid was leading the NBA in scoring with an average of 35.3 points per game. In 34 games, he also averaged 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

According to reports, Embiid did not participate in Philadelphia’s shoot-around earlier in the day and was initially believed to be out for Tuesday’s game.

Embiid’s return comes at a crucial time for the 76ers, who have clinched a postseason spot but currently hold the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 41–35 record.

Overtaking the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the standings might mean avoiding the Play-In Tournament (involving the Nos. 7-10 seeds), in addition to a possible first-round playoff matchup with the NBA-best Boston Celtics.

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