After missing eight games, Joel Embiid returned to the Philadelphia 76ers lineup and made his presence felt straight away with a dominant display in their 106-89 win over the Indiana Pacers.
With the win, the 76ers (42-25) move to into the third seed in the Eastern Conference, winning the season series 3-1. This gives them the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as the Pacers (42-25) at the end of the regular season.
Embiid started the game slow, picking up three quick fouls, with the big man admitting he felt 'rusty' in his first game back, but as the game went on he found his groove on the offensive end, finishing with 33 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-21 shooting, getting the home crowd on their feet in the fourth quarter with this and-1 play off the circus finish.
Who's got the moves?- Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 10, 2019
Jo's got the moves.@budweiserusa | #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/km90Utoqom
Despite his slow start, his impact on the defensive end was immediately noticable and in the third quarter the 76ers turned the game on its head, erasing a 14-point deficit as they held the Pacers to just 11 points as they shot just 3-of-20 from the field, going scoreless over the last 6:55 of the period.
Embiid scored 24 of of his 33 points on the second half on 7-for-11 shooting, marking his 24th game this season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, the most by any player this season.
The @sixers held the @Pacers to 30 second-half points in today's win.- Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) March 10, 2019
It's the fewest points Philadelphia has allowed in a game's second half since Chicago had 29 on Feb. 19, 2003.
Philly took a 72-70 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back, with big buckets from Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and James Ennis helping stretch their advantage to 90-77.
The Pacers' offensive struggles continued in the fourth, scoring just 19 points, failing to score 100 points for the second-striaght game after going down to the Milwaukee Bucks 117-98 on Friday.
They shot just 29-for-78 (37.2%) from the field, connecting on just 5-of-16 three-point attempts.
🔔 @JoelEmbiid goes for 33 PTS, 12 REB, guiding the @sixers to victory in his return to the floor! #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/CEBaUSAzfN- NBA (@NBA) March 10, 2019
Bojan Bogdanovic the way with 18 points, while Darren Collison added 14 and Doug McDermott 10.
For the 76ers Ben Simmons added in 15 points and six assists, with Harris (16 points) and Jimmy Butler (12 points) helping keep the score ticking over.
The 76ers will look to strengthen their grip on the third seed, hoping to avoid a first round playoff matchup with the Boston Celtics. They face the (16-50) Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday before taking on the (33-32) Sacramento Kings on Saturday to close out their three-game homestand.