Following a 10-game absence after being sidelined with a bone bruise in his left knee, Joel Embiid has picked up right where he left off.
He was rested for Sunday's loss to the Grizzlies, but followed up his 24-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a dominant display in the Philadelphia 76ers' 106-96 win over the Boston Celtics.
Embiid poured in 35 points on 9-of-19 shooting, doing the bulk of his damage at the free-throw line, going 16-of-20 as the Celtics bigs struggled to contain him.
Free throws tonight:- StatMuse (@statmuse) April 7, 2021
20 - Joel Embiid
18 - Celtics
Embiid has attempted 37 free throws in 2 games since coming back from injury. pic.twitter.com/r5Ffz1veMW
His ability to draw contact in the paint was sorely missed by the 76ers during his spell on the sidelines, as the team shot 39 free throws on the night to the Celtics' 18.
"I'm not all the way there, but tonight is a big step," Embiid said.
Tonight marked his 16th 30-point game of the season as the 76ers completed the season series sweep (3-0) over the Celtics for the first time since 2000-01.
"It's not just about what happened in the playoffs, every single year you want to win this matchup," he added. "That's the mindset we gotta have against every team. But against Boston, that's our rival."
.@JoelEmbiid is the first @sixers player with at least 3 games of 35+ points against the @celtics in a season since Hall of Famer Charles Barkley in 1990-91- Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) April 7, 2021
h/t @Sportradar and @Schragz
The 76ers sit at the top of the Eastern Conference at 35-16, tied with the Brooklyn Nets as the race for seeding heats up over the stretch run of the season.
Another key race down the stretch is the battle for the MVP, which Embiid was favoured to win prior to getting hurt, but after two games back in the lineup, he looks like he's already back that form.
With just 21 games remaining, it will take a huge finish to unseat favourite Nikola Jokic, who hasn't missed a game this season, while averaging 26.3 points, 11.0 rebounds 8.6 assists, leading the Nuggets to a 32-18 record, good for fourth in the Western Conference.
Embiid has jumped back into second in the odds, leapfrogging James Harden, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring strain, per the latest odds from William Hill.
Can Embiid make a late push to become the first 76ers player since Allen Iverson in 2001 to win MVP or is it Jokic's to lose?
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