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Sixers react to Joel Embiid’s dominant return vs. Timberwolves

Sixers, Joel Embiid, Doc Rivers, Tobias Harris, Timberwolves

Things may not have gone the Philadelphia 76ers’ way in their double-overtime thriller against the Timberwolves on Saturday, but there was one positive takeaway from the matchup. That being Joel Embiid had a near picture-perfect return to action.

The All-Star center played in his first game after being sidelined for three weeks due to COVID-19. For someone who battled mild symptoms and missed a handful of games, Embiid did not miss a beat against the Timberwolves. It did not take long for the big man to settle in and look like the dominant player we are accustomed to seeing.

In 45 minutes of action, Embiid tallied 42 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. A more than impressive showing given the circumstances. After the game, Sixers players and coaches opened on his performance and what it was like to have him back on the court.

First up was Sixers coach Doc Rivers, who praised his starting center for the work he put in behind the scenes to be able to hit the ground running in his return like he did.

“Listen, we lost, and Joel (Embiid) was phenomenal tonight. But we still lost the game. Joel would take 30 and win if you know what I’m saying. He was great, played a ton of minutes, something you just don’t know from COVID. Give him credit. Clearly, he’s been working out, and he showed us that,” said Rivers.

Tobias Harris spoke later and echoed some of the points made by Rivers while expressing his thoughts on having his All-Star teammate back on the floor.

“That’s a tough one, coming back from being out for that long of a period of time. He did his thing, he was carrying us all throughout. Just getting to his spots and getting his shot. His conditioning looked good as well. It was good to have him back with the team, and you just saw his presence and what was missing for sure,” Harris said.

A lot can be said about Embiid’s performance, but the point about conditioning is what stands out the most. It is a testament to the work he has put in to take better care of his body and be in peak physical condition for the Sixers.

Early in his career, many criticized Embiid for his lack of conditioning. Also, he was labeled a player who had to play themselves back into shape after missing time. While some of that might be true, it is not the case now. The fact that Embiid was able to play 45 minutes in his first game back after missing significant time speaks volumes of how serious he takes conditioning behind the scenes.

From the Sixers’ perspective, they should be more than pleased with the level Embiid played at on Saturday. The franchise cornerstone is relied on now more than ever to lead this team on and off the court, and he looks ready to get the season back on track.