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The Philadelphia 76ers hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time this season on Saturday night. Lately, the Sixers have been shorthanded as they've had several key players in and out of the lineup, including Joel Embiid, who's missed the last nine games as he dealt with a bad case of COVID-19.

Fortunately, Embiid was finally able to make his return. His first game back wasn't an easy one. On Saturday, his primary matchup was the All-Star big man Karl Anthony-Towns. Not only is Towns a versatile star like Embiid -- but he's somebody who embraces the challenge of playing a guy like Joel and isn't afraid to get physical.

In the past, Embiid and Anthony-Towns have had some intense battles. Back in 2019, the two stars went as far as wrestling on the court, leading to a double ejection. After the incident, Embiid and Anthony-Towns continued to trade shots on social media, escalating the situation. It became clear the two star big men didn't like each other, but they put their differences aside right before tip-off on Saturday night. 

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"I told Embiid on the court; I am very happy that he's come to the other side with COVID," Anthony-Towns said after Saturday's game. "We had our thing for a while, but that's bigger than basketball. That's bigger than what we have. I've seen it kill people, and I'm glad that he is on the other side. I am very, very happy that he's doing well and he's coming out on the other side and that he is healthy and he is getting himself back into basketball."

Embiid's journey to return to the court wasn't easy. As he had severe symptoms throughout the process of battling with COVID, which included struggling to breathe, migraines, and body aches, the All-Star big man admitted that he thought he wasn't going to "make it" at one point.

Fortunately, he did. And Embiid was able to return to the court to play against Anthony-Towns, who has seen COVID hit his family hard.

"No matter how we have felt about each other at times in the past, I think he is a hell of a player," Towns continued. "I am happy that the NBA has him back because, like I said, I want to play against the best of the best, and he is one of the best. So, it makes me have to play better, and it gives me a challenge."

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.