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What Joel Embiid's return means for the Philadelphia 76ers and the East playoff picture - ESPN

PHILADELPHIA — When Joel Embiid barreled down the court inside the final 30 seconds of Tuesday night's game against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, the sellout crowd inside Wells Fargo Center rose to its feet.

Meanwhile, 76ers coach Nick Nurse held his breath.

«Go faster?» Nurse said postgame, when asked what was going through his mind when he saw Embiid driving the paint in the closing moments of a one-point game after swiping the ball from Thunder guard Josh Giddey.

Seconds after the steal, Embiid, in his first game in eight weeks after undergoing a procedure on the lateral meniscus in his left knee, jumped into Thunder center Chet Holmgren at the rim. The collision sent the rookie into the photographers behind the basket and Embiid to the free throw line. «Man, I was trying to get the and-one,» Embiid said postgame.

Embiid knocked down a pair of free throws, and after a final sequence that saw Oklahoma City miss three potential game-tying 3-pointers inside the final 13 seconds of the game, Embiid and the 76ers were able to celebrate a 109-105 victory over the Thunder. Philly's MVP big man was officially back.

Overall, it was an uneven performance for Embiid: 24 points on 6-for-14 shooting but 12-for-12 from the foul line, to go along with 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 6 turnovers in nearly 30 minutes on the court. Most importantly, Embiid appeared to emerge unscathed from a health perspective, just as he did from Saturday's lengthy 5-on-5 practice, his first full session with his teammates since Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga inadvertently fell on his leg during a game on Jan. 30.

Now, the 76ers shift to Miami for one of the biggest remaining games in the regular season