One of the most important games of the season saw the return of the Sixers best player when they needed him the most. After an eight game absence, Joel Embiid returned to the court for the Sixers, dominating the Pacers, with 33 points, 12 rebounds and two steals.

"He is a difference maker in all ways, shapes and forms," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said.

The result was a 106-89 victory for the 76ers, which means they own a very important head-to-head tiebreaker, moving into the No. 3 spot in the eastern conference.

But it was the Sixers defense, led by the return of Embiid's rim protection, that help dominate the Pacers in the second-half, giving up a total of 30 points.

"The first thing you talk about is stuff at the rim, that’s what I felt the most pain when we didn’t have him, was just the rim protection," Brown explained.

The first two quarters Embiid appeared to be rusty, returning from an eight-game layoff, he was in early foul trouble, as the Pacers built an 8-point halftime lead. After a slow start, Embiid helped cut into the lead slowly in the third quarter, before dominating in the fourth, scoring 18 of his 33 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the final quarter.

"I was talking about being rusty and as the game kept going, I just kept getting better, getting to the line a lot too," said Embiid. "The game started slowing down for me, but my focus was really defensively."

Embiid's return just part of the reason why the Sixers defense was able to limit the Pacers to just 3-of-20 shots in the third quarter.

"In the third quarter they had 11 points, so we locked in defensively," Tobias Harris explained. "Which, when we do that, we are a heck of a team to go against.

"It’s mindset and focus. Coming out of halftime, just being ready. Seriously, cause we were down, so just being ready to go at them. Just imposing our will, that was the biggest thing. We let them continue to shoot the midrange jumper in the fourth quarter, we were going to live with those."

Harris is right, when the Sixers defend like they did in the second half, and make shots they are tough - and having Embiid back doesn't hurt.






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