Joel Embiid Scores 24 in Return from Injury as 76ers Beat Warriors 115-104

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 29, 2020

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 28: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers, wearing #24 to honor Kobe Bryant, looks on during a game against the Golden State Warriors on January 28, 2020 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers held serve at home against the Golden State Warriors 115-104 on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 24 points and 10 rebounds in his first game back after missing nine games with a torn radial collateral ligament in his left hand.

All five 76ers starters scored in double digits. Big man Al Horford was two assists shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight dimes. 

Raul Neto dropped 19 points off the bench, all in the first half.

Philadelphia led by only four points heading into the final quarter, but Embiid keyed a 9-0 run to start the fourth with a pair of buckets and an assist. Philadelphia never led by fewer than seven from that point forward. 

The game was the first in Philadelphia since Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria died Sunday along with seven others in a helicopter accident.

The 76ers paid a pregame tribute by holding a moment of silence and sounding a bell nine times.

In what has became a leaguewide norm since Sunday, the two teams started the game with an eight-second backcourt violation and a 24-second shot clock violation in honor of Bryant's Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys.

Embiid paid tribute to the former Laker for the night by changing his jersey number from 21 to Bryant's 24, which he wore in the latter half of his career.

Bryant was born in Philadelphia and played high school basketball at Lower Merion High School in nearby Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

For the Warriors, D'Angelo Russell led all scorers with 28 points. Draymond Green added a near-triple-double with nine points, 12 assists and nine boards.

The 31-17 Sixers have won six of their last seven. The 10-38 Warriors lost their fourth straight.


Notable Performances

Warriors G D'Angelo Russell: 28 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds

Warriors F Draymond Green: 9 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds

Warriors F Glenn Robinson III: 20 points, 5 rebounds

76ers C Joel Embiid: 24 points, 10 rebounds

76ers G Raul Neto: 19 points

76ers F Al Horford: 12 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists


Embiid Honors Kobe on Emotional Night in Philadelphia

The primary storylines heading into Tuesday's gamenamely Embiid's return from injury and the 76ers trying to win their sixth game in seven tries and 22th home game in 24 attemptsdeservedly took a backseat to tributes honoring the nine victims of Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan died in the crash en route to a girls' travel basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California.

Bryant coached Gianna, Alyssa and Payton.

The Laker legend's memory naturally took center stage in his old hometown, and Embiid honored his legacy in numerous ways.

First, the jersey number switch. That wasn't an easy transition to make since the Sixers retired the No. 24 in honor of five-time All-Star Bobby Jones.

Embiid needed Jones' permission to wear No. 24, and Jones relayed the conversation he had with the big man, per the 76ers' Instagram:

"I got a call today from Joel. He explained to me how growing up in Africa, Kobe was a guy who he looked up to as the star of American basketball at that time, and he is the player who made Joel want to play basketball. I shared with Joel that Kobe, in addition to doing all that scoring, was a 12-time All-Defensive player. I only made it 11 times, so there's a lot of defense that goes into that No. 24. I told Joel to play hard defense, because that is what the No. 24 represents in my mind. I thanked him for the call, and I'm glad he and I had the chance to talk."

Embiid and the 76ers did enough on defense to get the job done Tuesday, outscoring the Dubs 50-38 in the paint and holding Golden State to 42.5 percent shooting. Philadelphia also held Golden State to three points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Bryant notably helped shape Embiid's career path as a child growing up in Cameroon. The big man revealed on Sunday that he hadn't played basketball until watching Bryant play (and win) the 2010 NBA Finals versus the Boston Celtics. He also said that he wanted to be like Bryant.

Two days later, the center scored 24 points wearing No. 24 on a day where Bryant's No. 33 Lower Merion High School number was memorialized on the Wells Fargo Center court.

Embiid's final field goal was courtesy of a patented Bryant-esque fadeaway baseline jumper in which he shouted "Kobe!", per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bryant's Lakers beat the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals en route to a three-peat from 2000-2002.

The 76ers haven't been back to the championship round since, and this year has been a mixed bag featuring great highs (a blowout win over the league-best Milwaukee Bucks) and stark lows (a recent 2-6 stretch).

But at their best, the 76ers are a fierce defensive team who can hang with anyone in the NBA.

If they begin to routinely adopt the defensive mentality exhibited by the Lakers and 76ers greats who wore No. 24, they'll have a legitimate chance to end the season as NBA champions.


What's Next?

Both teams will play road games Thursday.

The 76ers will start a four-game Eastern Conference road trip against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Warriors will play the second game of their five-game Eastern Conference swing against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden at 8 p.m.


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