The Philadelphia 76ers returned home on Saturday night and they had a big boost return to their lineup in the form of star big man Joel Embiid. The big fella hadn’t played since Nov. 6 after testing positive for COVID-19 and he returned in a huge way.
Embiid went to work to the tune of 42 points on 12-for-23 shooting and 14 rebounds while shooting 16-for-21 from the foul line. Unfortunately, it came in a 121-120 double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Embiid also played over 45 minutes which is impressive considering it was his first game back from the virus.
“The first time I went up and down was probably two days ago,” said Embiid after the game. “I honestly didn’t think I was gonna play tonight after the workout last night. I really couldn’t go up and down more than three times. I guess, to me, it’s a miracle I even played this many minutes.”
The first game back from COVID is always a tough one. The virus can affect a person’s lungs and endurance and Embiid was able to do his thing all throughout the night. Tobias Harris, who also had COVID earlier in the season, was impressed by what he saw from the big fella.
“That’s a tough one coming back from being out for that long of a period of time and not playing, but he did his thing,” said Harris. “He was carrying us all throughout the overtimes and just getting to his spots and getting his shot, but all night, his conditioning looked good out there as well so it was good to have him back with the team. You just saw his presence and what was missed for sure.”
Still, it did come in a loss. The Sixers trailed by as many as 20 to a team that was playing on the second night of a back-to-back and they needed Embiid to be superhuman just to get back into the game.
“We lost and Joel was phenomenal,” said coach Doc Rivers. “We still lost the game and Joel would take 30 and win if you know what I’m saying. He was great, he played a ton of minutes, you just don’t know from COVID. Clearly, he’s been working out and he showed us that.”
Embiid did add that COVID hit him hard as it was tough to really get out of bed in the early part of being sick.
“It hasn’t been good,” he said. “That jawn hit me hard. I really thought I wasn’t gonna make it. It was that bad so I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad that I got over it and I’m just here doing what I love with some good people.”
Embiid then went into what was so tough about having COVID.
“Everything,” he started. “I couldn’t breathe. Headaches was worse than a migraine. The whole body was just done, I guess. It was not a good time.”
The Sixers will now host the Orlando Magic on Monday looking to stop a two-game skid.
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