The Sixers (40-35) hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder (52-22) on Tuesday. Philadelphia wanted to build on Sunday's victory over the Toronto Raptors. Oklahoma City wanted to extend its winning streak to three games. The Sixers erased an eight-point deficit to earn a victory in Joel Embiid's return, 109-105.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Thunder were without the services of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has a right quad contusion. Jalen Williams missed the game with a sprained left ankle.

Ousmane Dieng is on assignment with Oklahoma City's G League affiliate and was not available. Adam Flagler, Keyontae Johnson, and Olivier Sarr are on two-way G League assignments and were out.

Mark Daigneault started Josh Giddey, Aaron Wiggins, Lu Dort, Chet Holmgren, and Jaylin Williams.

Exactly eight weeks after undergoing a procedure to address a meniscus injury in his left knee, Embiid made his return.

The Sixers were without the services of Tyrese Maxey, who has left hip tightness.

De'Anthony Melton has bone stress in his lumbar spine and remained out. As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Mo Bamba missed the game with an illness.

Ricky Council IV, Jeff Dowtin Jr., and Terq Smith are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were not available.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Cam Payne, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Embiid.


- As soon as it was revealed that Embiid would return for this game, the story effectively became a commentary on his play within the context of whether the team won or lost. One of the truest adages in basketball is that the only way to get in playing shape is to play. No matter what Embiid did during his efforts to ramp up conditioning in recent weeks, the only way for him to truly prepare himself was always going to be to play real games. You saw where his fitness was rather quickly, the big fella calling for Paul Reed to relieve him less than five minutes into the game.

As I've written over and over again, the only question about this team's playoff aspirations is whether he can get into "best player in the league" shape in time for a seven-game series. Not the knee or the roster; his conditioning is the true race against time.

You can't fairly be critical of his rustiness in his first game back, but there was clearly a short battery life. Much of his time on the court was spent stretching his eye for the sport, being in the right positions and timing his quick movements to make rotations. It didn't take long for his jumper to find the mark; it just took a while to restore his burst to apply his force on the Thunder.

Starting with his first substitution back in, it was apparent Nurse wanted Embiid sharing the floor with Lowry and Nico Batum as much as possible. They got up and went to the scorer's table to check in precisely when the big man did. The early chemistry was promising, even if the execution was a bit slow.

There were awkward moments to be sure; Embiid faded towards the perimeter and into Lowry's space on a pick-and-roll, muddying the action. But, there were a lot of possessions that showcased their two-man chemistry. Lowry knew where to deliver the pocket pass in the pick-and-roll, setting Embiid up for one-on-one catches around the elbows.

There were moments of creativity originating from Embiid's budding chemistry with Lowry, too. On one of Philadelphia's first possessions of the second half, he found Lowry curling off a pin-down. Oubre cut to the basket out of the screen, and Lowry found him in space to set up a shooting foul on Holmgren at the rim.

The chemistry with Batum was much more in the lane of picking back up where they left off. The Thunder made a point of double-teaming Embiid around the short corners, pinning him against the baseline with a pair of hands in his face. Batum was there to help his teammate out of trouble, flashing to spaces in Embiid's line of vision to receive the pass and relieve the pressure.

Heady plays like that - a guy cutting to a spot to relieve pressure - often catalyze some of the most exciting plays in the sport. As the defense recovers to account for the guy who just cut to help the subject of the double-team, a third guy cuts into the picture to receive the dump-off pass and get a shot at the rim. Batum is one of perhaps three Sixers in the Embiid era to cut quickly and make the connector pass as soon as he caught the ball in the first place. Your eyes pinballed from spot to spot as the rock went from Embiid to Batum, and to a cutting Oubre for a finish at the rim in the first half.

- Kudos to Harris, who launched six triples through three quarters in this game. He hasn't seen this much space between himself and the nearest defender in quite some time. His timidness letting it go from deep is not about skill, although I would contest that he doesn't get enough arc under the ball when he shoots from three and perhaps that makes him second-guess whether he has the range sometimes. The record-scratch moments are about what goes on between the ears.

- Oubre did not have a good first three quarters, but he was one of the heroes of their fight to earn the victory in the fourth. Unbelievable three-point shooting, and some big defensive plays when it mattered most.


- There were, of course, some growing pains to be ironed out. Philadelphia's offense early on was awful, and the Sixers starved themselves of any rhythm with their shot selection. Oklahoma City did a very good job of beating drivers to spots when they tried to attack close-outs, forcing the Sixers to stop short of the rim and chuck up low-quality twos.

One of the Sixers' very worst shots of the game came courtesy of Buddy Hield, who deferred a rim attack in transition because he couldn't find the path to the basket as the Thunder converged and opted for a step-back two a few steps outside of the paint. Maybe the worst shot you can take in the sport?

The Sixers (41-35) will visit the Miami Heat (42-33) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.


Check Out Greater Atlantic City, NJ Area Athletes Who Played Games In NFL

Many people are not aware of the number of athletes from the Greater Atlantic City Region who have played in the National Football League. Football players who played at high schools in Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Ocean Counties have a strong representation in the NFL over the last few decades.

One of the most difficult accomplishments in sports is to make a Professional Sports Roster and earn the opportunity to play in a game at the highest level of the sport. Check out some of the great South Jersey Athletes who have played in games in the NFL:

Gallery Credit: Joshua Hennig/Townsquare Media

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