76ers Make Long-Awaited Return Home
While Joel Embiid's availability for Saturday's game likely won't be confirmed until closer to tip-off against the Minnesota Timberwolves (12-37), it's noteworthy that the 76ers (33-15) have listed him as something other than "out" on the injury report for the first time since he suffered a left knee bone bruise Mar. 12 at Washington.
As of publishing, Embiid's status was "questionable."
Prior to getting hurt, the big man was being discussed in MVP terms. If he had the requisite number of games and minutes played to qualify, Embiid would rank second in the NBA in scoring (29.9 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (11.5 rpg).
"[Whenever] we add Joel back to the lineup, it's going to be lights out," said Dwight Howard, who's coming off an 18-point, 15-rebound performance in Thursday's 114-94 victory at Cleveland. "Adding Joel back is just going to make us more dominant. I can't wait to see him."
Essentially 9-3 without the big fella and in a virtual tie for first in the East.
Squad did its job without him. Time to ramp it up for the stretch run. pic.twitter.com/IwUsNAsmY6
— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) April 2, 2021
In the four-time All-Star's absence, the Sixers have played exceptionally well, all things considered. They're a sterling 9-3 since the All-Star break, a stretch during which Embiid has only logged 20 minutes.
Entering Saturday's action, the Sixers are tied with the Utah Jazz for an NBA-best 10.4 net rating (the difference between points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) since the break, while the Sixers' post-All Star break 101.5 defensive rating is lowest in the league by more than 2.0 points per 100 possessions.
"I guess this stretch of playing without [Embiid], other guys have found their niche a bit," Doc Rivers said. "When he's off the floor, I think we'll have a better idea what to run. Obviously having him in makes our second unit deeper, so that will help as well."
Speaking of the Sixers' bench, it combined for a whopping 65 points against the Cavaliers. The win capped the Sixers' marathon six-game road trip, which saw them go 4-2.
Recently acquired veteran George Hill remains out.
The Minnesota Timberwolves own the worst record in the NBA. They lost Friday at Memphis, 120-108, despite Karl-Anthony Towns posting 30 points and 16 rebounds. Anthony Edwards, the no. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, was tabbed Western Conference Rookie of the Month for March, after bursting for 24.2 points per game.
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic