BOSTON — Doc Rivers said his star big man Joel Embiid had a few words for him as he walked off the TD Garden court on Tuesday night.
“I’m back,” Embiid told the 76ers coach.
“I noticed,” Rivers replied.
In just his second game back after being sidelined by a bruised bone in his left knee, Embiid scored 35 points and Philadelphia rolled to a 106-96 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
Danny Green added 17 points as the 76ers posted their third straight victory over the Celtics to sweep the season series for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.
Embiid went 16 for 20 at the foul line and grabbed six rebounds. He missed 10 games with the injury.
Everything's just so easy for Joel, isn't it? pic.twitter.com/zDBPoD6LpO
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 6, 2021
“I’m not all the way there, but tonight is a big step,” Embiid said.
It’s also a small bit of revenge for Philadelphia, which was swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“It’s not just about what happened in the playoffs, every single year you want to win this matchup,” Embiid said. “That’s the mindset we gotta have against every team. But against Boston, that’s our rival.”
Philadelphia led by 21 in the second half of the opener of a four-game trip. It has won three of four overall.
Boston was trying for its first three-game win streak since early March. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 20 points, and Jaylen Brown finished with 17.
Boston had been inching closer to having its full roster available. That progress took a hit hours before the game when recent acquisition Evan Fournier entered the health and safety protocols.
The Celtics benefited from his presence in back-to-back wins over Houston and Dallas. His shooting ability from the outside helped create more spacing and forced opposing defenses to leave Tatum and Brown in single coverage.
Without him, Boston kept the ball moving Tuesday, but had trouble figuring out its rotations at times on defense.
Center Robert Williams, who has played some of his best basketball since joining the starting lineup six games ago, picked up two quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game and was forced to the bench.
Embiid seized on his absence and finished the opening period with 12 points.
“He takes advantage of every single bump,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Embiid’s success getting to the line.
Boston’s lack of success defending Embiid prompted Stevens to insert 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall late in the first half and again early in the third quarter.
It pushed Embiid out of the lane, but he was able to pass out of double teams. He helped his teammates find their shot in the second quarter. Green had three 3-pointers and 11 points during a 15-0 run that put Philadelphia in front 52-37. Green was 5 of 6 from 3 on the night.
George Hill missed his seventh consecutive game as he continues his recovery from right thumb surgery.
Embiid had 24 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s win over Minnesota and was given the night off Sunday for Philadelphia’s loss to Memphis. Rivers said the plan is to continue to ease him back in. He played 33 minutes Tuesday.
“When you get a player like Joel back and you throw him into your offense, it’s actually going to create some short-time rhythm problems,” Rivers said. “We have to try to win games still and get his rhythm back at the same time.”