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PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid‘s long-anticipated debut delighted the Philadelphia crowd Wednesday night, even in a loss.

Playing in his first regular-season game after missing his first two seasons due to two right foot surgeries, Embiid drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd — even on missed shots — by flashing the versatile potential that made him the third overall pick in 2014.

More important though was the fact that the 7-footer got up and was OK after taking a hard spill in the second half while fouled in transition which drew a collective arena-wide gasp from the Philadelphia faithful.

Embiid kept playing and he finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in a 103-99 Sixers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Embiid played two minutes over his game restriction of 20 minutes and accomplished his first personal goal of the season.

“Uh, finish the game healthy,” Embiid said when asked what he wanted to see in his first pro game.

It’s been an emotional journey for Embiid and the Sixers, who have endured three rebuilding seasons and a total of 199 losses over those three years that have enabled the team to draft the likes of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor. The Sixers drafted Embiid in 2014 but the raw center had to undergo two surgeries on his right foot before finally taking the court this season.

“There are times when I get emotional like watching him today walk around in shootaround and you see how (all the arena) seats with white shirts placed on them and it’s Opening Night and Joel Embiid is here,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown before the game. “I lived every second of that journey with him, good times and bad, and for him to arrive now here … knowing the work and uncertainty and the emotional strain that he went through wondering if he would play again, to see him arrive, it is a special night.”

The Sixers wanted to restrict Embiid’s minutes to 20 and Okafor’s minutes to 12 for the game to maintain the health of their two young pillars with fellow talented prospects Nerlens Noel and Simmons out with injuries.

“If you went into my office you would see it is a Rubik’s Cube,” Brown said of his minutes plan. “I need an abacus.”

The way Embiid looked in his debut, opponents might need a complicated formula for figuring out how to stop the talented big man in the years to come. The 7-footer flashed all of his potential, from putting the ball on the floor like a small forward to hitting a 3-pointer to a dizzying array of back-to-the-basket moves.

Embiid drew cheers on a missed shot when he pump-faked a 3 before putting the ball on the floor, crossing over, backing in a defender, shaking his back and showing the ball with one hand like Hakeem Olajuwon used to do. It might’ve been the most exciting miss Philadelphia has seen in years.

“We have been through 52 players, in my three years, not including the ones that are still here,” Brown said. “Only 11 are still in the NBA. Think of that.”

Embiid, though, might’ve made fans appreciate the losses it took to get him and get to this point. He scored his first basket on a 16-foot shake-and-bake turnaround jumper with 8:17 left in the first quarter to a roar.

Seconds later, Embiid emphatically blocked Russell Westbrook in the lane and the arena exploded.

He buried his first 3-pointer with 7:12 to go in the second. By the early moments of the fourth quarter, Embiid stood at the free-throw line and was serenaded with chants of “Trust the process!” by Sixers fans referring to the mantra that became popular during former general manager Sam Hinkie’s long rebuild.

Embiid also showed no fear down the stretch in a tight game. He drained a 14-footer over Steven Adams with 3:26 left to give the Sixers a 93-90 lead. And with 50.7 seconds to go, Embiid knocked down another short jumper to tie the game at 97-97.

The Sixers called on Embiid’s number again needing a basket to tie the game but Embiid missed a contested drive to the rim. Later down four, Embiid drove the lane and scored but was called for an offensive foul with 5.2 seconds left.

Embiid would have liked to have won his pro debut but he knows how far he has come just to be able to play this game.

“You think about what you have gone through the last three years, having to get surgery, all the ups and downs,” Embiid said. “But I try to stay away from (thinking about that).”