Joel Embiid was listed as questionable less than half-an-hour before tipoff against the Suns Saturday night.
The minute he stepped on the court, there was no doubt he was ready to play. 

Embiid had suffered a mild left ankle sprain on Thursday playing the Timberwolves. The Sixers evaluated him throughout the day, starting at morning shootaround, and made the final decision after Embiid went through pregame warmups. 

“It was still a little bit sore, but I told them that I felt great,” Embiid said after the Sixers 120-105 victory (see Instant Replay). “I’m glad I did and we got a win.”

Embiid scored 17 points in only seven minutes and 28 seconds in the first. That burst jumpstarted his career-high 26-point, seven-rebound performance, which he compiled in just 20 minutes. 

“They gave me a lot of open looks and I just fired them away and I made shots,” Embiid simplified the first quarter. 

As fundamentally as Embiid broke it down, there was a large significance to those early minutes. The rookie was still feeling the aftermath of the Sixers' nationally televised 110-86 blowout loss to the Timberwolves. 

Embiid had viewed that game as an opportunity to shake the perception of the team’s struggling ways. He wanted to show the last three years were behind them and the Sixers were going in a new direction. 


That didn’t happen. The team was scrutinized for its efforts and progress. Videos of Karl-Anthony Towns scoring on him quickly made their way around the Internet. Being as involved in social media as he is, Embiid felt it on Twitter too. 

He jumped on his first chance at redemption. 

“Going into the national TV game, one of my main goals was to make sure that when people think about the Sixers -- they think about us losing or I don’t know what else, so I wanted to change that,” Embiid said. “I didn’t get to change that, so I was really mad after the game. But after that game, that was probably one of the main reasons why I came out in the first quarter, I just wanted to dominate. … 

“That made me mad and that’s a fuel for me. I like that. I like competition. I want to fight. I want to win. Tonight I think it helped me a little bit.”

The motivation drove Embiid to score 20 points for the fourth time in only nine career games. He did it in front of his parents, who traveled to Philadelphia to watch their son play in his first NBA season. 

As for his ankle, that was in the back of his mind, pushed to the side by his desire to win. 

“When you play, you don’t really pay attention to those kind of things or sore ankles,” Embiid said. “During the game I was fine. It’s fine, it’s fine. Even now, it’s fine.”