3 observations after Embiid’s return, Sixers earn a key Game 3 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Joel Embiid didn’t save the day alone, but his presence boosted the Sixers Friday night and helped the team earn a much-needed win.
Wearing a black protective mask, Embiid played for the first time since suffering a concussion and a fractured right eye socket last Thursday. He scored 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Sixers cut their deficit to 2-1 in the second round with a 99-79 win over the Heat at the Wells Fargo Center.
Danny Green made 7 of his 9 three-point attempts for 21 points. Tyrese Maxey also scored 21 goals and played a brilliant second half.
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 33 points.
Kyle Lowry was also returning from injury on Friday night, coming back from a left hamstring strain.
Game 4 takes place in Philadelphia on Sunday night. Here are some observations on the Sixers’ Game 3 win:
Embiid grinds it out
Comfort was an obvious theme for Embiid. At the first stop of play, he removed his mask and asked a ball person along the baseline for a towel to wipe his face and mask. He continued this routine throughout the game. Despite this, Embiid’s mobility was not affected, and he didn’t seem to struggle much with getting back into live action.
Embiid’s agility is many classes better than DeAndre Jordan’s. At the first touch of Tyler Herro, Embiid dodged hard and disrupted the sixth man of the year, eventually resulting in a shot clock violation. The Sixers weren’t nearly as limited defensively, and it didn’t feel like the team’s full-back had to be perfect.
Embiid missed two jumpers in the first quarter, but his efforts to seal smaller defenders in the paint were productive and impressive. Every chance Embiid had to attack early in the shot clock seemed promising, especially against 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon. He scored four points late in the first by slipping easily past Dedmon, including a fast break slam.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said before the game that Embiid’s on-pitch activities had been limited due to his concussion, but the 28-year-old still managed to play the first 10 minutes and 26 seconds of the game. The Sixers were leading 21-13 when he retired, feeling significantly better about their position in the series.
Embiid’s jumpers were also stubborn in his next stint. He jumped in the air in the second quarter and only did one after 43 seconds in the third period.
That he played through despite multiple serious injuries says a lot about Embiid’s resilience, but it was also commendable that he initiated contact and threw himself straight into the fire of an intense playoff game. He made an important and-one layup late in the third.
Simmering animosity between the teams boiled over early in the fourth when Matisse Thybulle and PJ Tucker were each assessed for technical fouls. Officials reviewed the incident and did not consider Tucker’s off-ball thrust against Thybulle’s back more than a technician.
Harden takes the first, Maxey the second
James Harden drove with conviction in the first half and often got the color both in transition and in the half field offensive.
Efficiency was a core element of Harden’s game when he was at his best. He had 15 points on six field goal attempts in the first two quarters.
Four turnovers were a blemish in Harden’s first half, and the last one helped the Sixers substituted him early. Harden was stripped on a drive – he was certain the play should have been a foul – and then picked up his third staff for subsequent possession in Miami. He prevailed for the final 2:15 of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Maxey didn’t score in the first half after scoring 34 points in Game 2. Maxey found Green for a corner three that gave the Sixers a 26-17 lead with a nice drive and kick, but he was much less involved overall than the Sixers prefer. Like Maxey, Lowry was goalless in the first half. He also failed to score in the second half, going 0-for-4 off the floor in 25 minutes. Although part of Miami’s poor offensive start was simply open jumpers not falling, the Heat didn’t initially adapt well to Lowry’s (and Embiid’s) return.
Harden committed his fourth foul at 8:12 in the third and Rivers took him out shortly after. The Sixers then played a terrible couple of minutes, with Green throwing the ball wide on possession after the timeout. The experienced wing also made a quick break and had a tough time defensively with Butler.
Green’s outside shooting temporarily got the Sixers back on track. The 34-year-old hit an 11-0 heat run with a three-pointer assisted by Embiid and he blasted another three-pointer to extend the Sixers’ lead to 57-51. However, Miami kept pushing and finished the game on two Dedmon free throws with 57 points. The Sixers were lucky that Maxey then went into star mode.
He went on a 5-0 personal run that included a top-of-the-key three and a fast-break layup. The 21-year-old took control of the game in the fourth quarter with some more long jumpers, an off-balance runner and a defensive jewel as he chased a steal and then saved the ball with a flip over his head.
Harden didn’t contribute much in the second half of this series, but nobody cared that Friday night.
Green relives the Sixers’ shootout
Paul Reed was Embiid’s backup and Jordan remained on the bench.
Still playing 10 men, the Sixers inserted Shake Milton after Harden’s third foul. Milton made an important three-pointer at a time when the Sixers were faltering offensively. He earned a stint in the second half and held up well defensively. Milton’s chances of pulling this off are significantly higher than Furkan Korkmaz’s.
Matisse Thybulle appears to be trending up slightly in terms of confidence and rhythm after being ineligible to play in Toronto’s last series due to not being fully vaccinated. During the second quarter, he recorded a dunk, a steal, and a block in under a minute. He remained the main defender for Herro, who had 14 points in 5-for-15 shooting. The Sixers kept making mistakes that presented Herro with open eyes, and he capitalized late in the third with two threes.
After a 1v9 performance in Game 2, Green’s bounce back shooter game was big. The Sixers also had a bit of luck that Miami had a cold night (7-30 from three-point range), although the team’s collective defense was strong.
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/sports/sixers/joel-embiid-returns-sixers-win-crucial-game-3-against-heat/3231326/ Joel Embiid returns, Philadelphia 76ers wins crucial Game 3 vs. Miami Heat – NBC10 Philadelphia