Prior to Thursday night’s Game 3 tilt, the Sixers hadn’t won a game in Miami since 2014. After faltering at home in the second game of their seven-game series against the Heat, Philly needed some firepower to bring it to South Florida and a shot in the arm from a returning Joel Embiid was just what the doctor ordered in a 128-108 win to go up 2-1 on the campaign.
Embiid had 23 points (and went 3-for-4 from long distance) in his first game since injuring his orbital bone back in March. The team’s plethora of shooters all made big contributions as well, with Marco Belinelli coming off the bench with 21 points, Dario Saric netting 22, and Ben Simmons posting his usual near triple double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
A back-and-forth game burst into a double-digit lead for Philly in the fourth quarter, as the pass-happy Sixers made things tough on Miami as they found open shooters all over the floor while Embiid attacked the paint going to the foul line 15 times.
“I think he had a great game,” Simmons said of Embiid on NBCSP. “He’s a little rusty but he’s going to be fine. I love having him on the floor, it makes it easier for me.”
As soon as he stepped on the court, Embiid made an impact instantly upon in his first career playoff game. In the first few minutes he gathered a key block, assist and free throws to get things going right out of the gate. He would miss his first five field goals, but his 7-foot-2 presence certainly made a difference every minute he was on the floor.
The rest of the squad followed his lead, slowly building a lead as big as 11 before a 12-5 Miami spurt chipped it to just four after the first 12 minutes.
A fluke play temporarily broke the lenses off of Embiid’s mask in the second, allowing the Heat to fully close the gap and take the lead at 46-43 with seven to play in the frame. The big man would return, and his first field goal — a three-pointer at the 1:30 mark — tied things at 61. After the second horn, the Heat clung to a slim 64-63 advantage.
The game was tied for a 10th time midway through the third, whe Embiid drilled his second three of the game (wearing his third mask, as he had issues with them throughout the night) and minutes later a Dario Saric triple made for the 15th lead change and a Philly one-point lead (followed of course by a James Johnson three to tie).
With seconds left in the third, the Sixers finally broke the see-saw log-jam when T.J. McConnell scored three the old fashioned way to give them a 96-94 lead. A 9-1 outburst early in the fourth finally had the Sixers ahead by a substantial margin, 105-95 and maintained it, building their edge to 15 after a Simmons thunderous dunk with 2:21 to play. They would outscore Miami 31-14 in the final quarter.
As a team, the Sixers drilled 18-of-33 shots from three, much like their long range barrage in Game 1 that lifted them to a 130-103 victory.
Game 4 will tip off in Miami at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. If the Sixers can win, they’ll be able to close out the series at home Tuesday of next week.