Fultz scores 10 points in return to playoff-bound Sixers

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Ben Simmons (#25): Three points shy of completing a triple-double in Philadelphia 76ers' 123-104 spanking of the Denver Nuggets. He scored seven points, hauled down 13 rebounds and issued 11 assists. AFP file

LOS ANGELES, United States — Former first-overall draft pick Markelle Fultz delivered 10 points in his much-anticipated return as the playoff-bound Philadelphia 76ers crushed the Denver Nuggets 123-104 on Monday.

The return of guard Fultz, who was a top pick in the 2017 NBA entry draft, comes a day after the 76ers clinched their first playoff spot in six years.

“He showed signs of why he was the first player chosen,” said coach Brett Brown. “Obviously the game is fast and it is elite and that is a good team. But the night could not have worked out better.”

Joel Embiid scored a team-high 20 points and 13 rebounds and Ben Simmons had seven points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the Sixers, who recorded their seventh straight win to move within one game of third place in the Eastern Conference.

With 10 games left in the regular season, Philadelphia will use that time to determine how Fultz can fit into their playoff plans.

Fultz played 15 minutes as a backup guard to Simmons and finished five-of-13 from the field with eight assists and four rebounds in his first game since October 23.

It was just the fifth career NBA game for Fultz, who was initially diagnosed with a right shoulder problem, then told he had a scapular imbalance.

But with their first playoff berth since 2012 safely tucked away, the club decided it was time for Fultz’s season debut.

Fultz checked in to a standing ovation from the crowd of 20,500 at the Wells Fargo Arena with 2:54 left in the first quarter and drove down the baseline for a quick basket.

Later in the game the crowd chanted, “We Want Fultz!”

“The way that he was welcomed by the city, spectacular. The way he was embraced by his teammates just reinforces what I think of our group,” Brown said.

Will Barton led the Nuggets with 25 points.

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