Joel Embiid returned to the 76ers’ starting lineup Saturday night for the first time since mid-March, and the timing couldn’t have been much better. The four-time All-Star, who had been recovering from a knee injury, was able to play against his old buddy Karl-Anthony Towns.
Buddy? No, that doesn’t seem right. Maybe it would be more accurate to describe the Timberwolves center as Embiid’s basketball nemesis.
A quick refresher: Back in October 2019, Embiid and Towns were ejected from a game following a brawl that saw the big men exchanging blows as they tumbled to the ground. They then traded harsh verbal jabs on social media, and each player earned a two-game suspension for their roles in the “on-court altercation” and for their “continued escalation” online.
Does that mean Embiid and Towns really hate each other? No, probably not, but it does make their matchups intense and entertaining to watch.
In the first half of Saturday’s contest, Towns put Embiid on a poster with a one-handed dunk, and he let Embiid know about it.
Embiid answered later by hitting Towns with a quick crossover, creating contact and finishing an off-balance shot. He celebrated with a series of crotch chops that would make Triple H and Shawn Michaels proud.
Towns had 17 points and eight rebounds through the first 24 minutes of action, while Embiid totaled 15 points and seven rebounds.
Two of the NBA’s most talented young stars showing off their skills and mixing in some animosity? Yes, more of that, please.