Joel Embiid returns, recounts injury scare as the Sixers defeated the T-Wolves 122-113
When Joel Embiid injured his left knee on March 12th, he thought his season was over. He was in so much pain it brought him to tears as he asked himself “Why me?” a million times over. In the past, any time something is going well with the Philadelphia 76ers, something bad happens to Embiid or one of his teammates. Considering all of the injuries Embiid has had to battle back from since being drafted, the years the city of Philadelphia had to wait until he was healthy, and the now elite level of player he is today, when Embiid is hurt, the whole city hurts with him.
Embiid returned to the court last night. There was no structural damage to his knee, only a bone bruise. He missed 10 games and the Sixers pulled out a very tough road trip without him, in which they went 7-3 and now sit in a dead-lock tie atop of the Eastern Conference with the Brooklyn Nets. Embiid came out of the locker room for the first time in over a year to the sound of applause. In patented Embiid fashion, he threw his hands up and urged on the crowd smiling as he took the court in pregame warmups. The entire city of Philadelphia smiled right back and gave him a standing ovation, whether you were at the Wells Fargo or watching the game from home.
With their MVP-caliber center back in the starting lineup, the 76ers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113. They improved to 34-15 overall and are now 17-3 with all five starters playing.
Embiid, although a bit “rusty” finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. He shot 17 free throws, making 12 of them. It’s pretty surreal to think a 24 point, eight rebound game would be considered bad, but even Joel Embiid himself said after the game that he was just getting back into rhythm after missing nearly three weeks of action. The brace on his knee wasn’t comfortable. He struggled to find his balance while shooting and finished 0-4 from three point range.
“It just felt like I had a hitch on my shot,” he said. “Every single shot, it just felt like it wasn’t smooth and I had no rhythm and I hit the brace. And that was part of it.”
Defensively, Embiid had to deal with Karl Anthony Towns. Towns scored 39 points and pulled in 14 rebounds. He attacked the rim and even blew past Embiid a few times on his way to the rim. If you’re reading this, you already know what I’m talking about. Images of Towns dunking on Embiid are plastered all over any major sports media outlets’ social accounts, as they ignored the fact that the Timberwolves are 12-38 and were down double-digits, as Towns dunked on Embiid during his first game back, but I digress.
Tobias Harris shot 13-for-17 from the floor and 2-for-3 from three point range, scoring 32 points. He added five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Harris was dominant in the 4th quarter, and carved up Josh Okogie while playing elite defense on Karl Anthony Towns late in the game. On 10 possessions against Okogie, Harris scored 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting while going 2-for-2 from three point range and 2-for-2 from the foul line. Harris scored 12 points in the last 3:25 of the game as he has done all season long for the Sixers.
Ben Simmons with room to operate thanks to the big man returning down low, scored 14 points while adding eight rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Shake Milton and Seth Curry combined for 27 points, three rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.
The Sixers will now play 23 games over the next 42 days to close out the regular season. Next up will be against the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. Doc Rivers spoke after the game and stated that he would rather be cautious than aggressive, meaning we will most likely be without Embiid tonight on the second half of a back-to-back. The Grizzlies are 23-23 on the season and currently sit in ninth place in the Western Conference. They are 2-3 over their last five games. Last game however, the Grizzlies had eight players in double-digits. Center Jonas Valanciunas, recorded his 28th double-double of the season, scoring 19 points and pulling in 11 boards.
The key player for tonight’s game will be Ben Simmons. He will likely be tasked with guarding Ja Morant who as we all know, has been the best player for the Grizzlies this season. Simmons, who has looked shaky in the month of April, took a step in the right direction last night and will look to build on a solid performance tonight against Memphis.
The Grizzles are an unpredictable team and the Sixers shouldn’t take them for granted tonight on the second leg of a back-to-back. Luckily for the Sixers, they are 20-4 at home and have fans in attendance down at the Wells Fargo Center, which makes it hard to believe that a sub-par Grizzlies team will enter the building and steal a win.