Sixers' Joel Embiid returns for win vs. Thunder, cites depression during recovery


April 3 (UPI) -- Joel Embiid returned from a two-month injury hiatus and scored 24 points to spark a Philadelphia 76ers comeback win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He told reporters that he battled depression during his absence.

The All-Star center made 6 of 14 shots and totaled seven assists and six rebounds, but also logged six turnovers in the 109-105 triumph Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The appearance was his first since a Jan. 30 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

"This one took a toll mentally, being depressed," Embiid said of his hiatus. "It was not a good one. So, still not where I'm supposed to be, especially mentally.

"But I just love to play and love basketball and I want to play and any chance that I can be out there, I'm going to take it."

The 76ers went 11-18 during Embiid's hiatus, triggered by a meniscus injury in his left knee. They are 14-27 overall when he hasn't played this season and 27-8 when he is in the lineup. They sit at No. 8 in the Eastern Conference.

Embiid cited disappointment leading to his depression. The reigning NBA MVP averaged a career-high 35.3 points per game through his first 34 games this season.

He then underwent surgery on his left knee in February, leading to his long break from basketball.

"It was depressing," Embiid said. "It took me a while to get over it, and I still haven't gotten over it. So just got to take it day by day and look at the positive."

The Thunder went on a 9-3 run to start Tuesday's game. Embiid, who scored six in the first quarter, then helped the 76ers rebound. They took a 25-22 edge into the second.

The lead changed hands several times over the next few minutes before the Thunder earned a 10-point edge and led 54-44 at halftime. The 76ers outscored their foes 29-26 in the third quarter and 36-25 over the final 12 minutes to secure the victory. They trailed by as many as 13 points.

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a game-high 25 points in the victory. Fellow 76ers forward Tobias Harris chipped in 18 points. Sixers guard Cameron Payne totaled 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Thunder center Chet Holmgren scored 22 points. Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins and forward Luguentz Dort scored 15 points apiece in the loss.

The 76ers (41-35) will face the Miami Heat (42-33) at 7:30 p.m. EDT Thursday in Miami. The Thunder (52-23) will battle the Boston Celtics (59-16) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Boston.