Friday night, the Philadelphia 76ers found themselves in another tight game down the stretch. Thanks to a strong defensive showing in the fourth quarter, they clawed back and put themselves in a position to steal a win on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Sixers have been a competitive group night in and night out all season, and were rewarded for their valiant effort in Atlanta. When all was said and done, they walked out with a 98-96 victory over their playoff rival.

Multiple factors can be attributed to this win, but one stands out above the rest: The play of franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid.

Since returning to the lineup after missing three weeks due to health and safety protocols, things have been a bit shaky for the All-Star center. He returned in dominant fashion against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but his next two showings showed Embiid will need time to get back into the swing of things.

Early on against the Hawks, it looked like Embiid was heading for another rough shooting night. That all changed in the second half, as he began to show glimpses of the player we are accustomed to seeing.

In 18 minutes of work in the final two quarters, Embiid posted 16 points, six rebounds and two assists, connecting on seven of his 13 shot attempts. He also delivered the biggest moment of the night, hitting a mid-range jumper over Clint Capela to put the Sixers up two in the game’s final minute. All in all, Embiid finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks.

Embiid did not hide how much this hard-fought win meant to him. When the Hawks’ final shot attempt didn’t fall, he was ecstatic at half court before making his way to his teammates.

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After the game, Georges Niang touched on the competitiveness and desire of his All-Star teammate.

“He’s intense. You can just see it in his eyes. He wants to win so bad,” Niang said of Embiid, per team reporter Lauren Rosen. “He demands greatness out of all of us, and he also demands greatness out of himself.”

Embiid has always been known as an emotional leader who plays with his heart on his sleeve. Since arriving in the NBA, he has wanted nothing more than to become great.

The passion and intensity Embiid plays the game with have made him a great leader on the court for the Sixers. Seeing how bad he wants it makes him an easy person for a locker room to rally behind.

This season, Embiid has been called on to lead the charge for the Sixers more than ever before. With all the drama involving Ben Simmons over their heads, it is on him to be someone the group can rely on both on and off the floor.

With how fired up he was following Friday’s win, Embiid looks hungry to get the Sixers’ season back on track.