By Dylan MacKinnon
Now that is more like it. Things were not perfect in Embiid’s return. They still turned the ball over a ton. Offensive rebounds were still a major issue. And they still got nothing from the bench. But they were good enough to get the win. After being pretty much run off the court in games 1 and 2, Embiid’s presence helped spark them to a 99-79 win over the Heat in game 3.
Embiid was not at 100%. You could see the rust in the first half. But as the game went on he started to come to life a bit on offense. He completed two separate 3pt plays in the second half. In the end, he finished with 18pts and 11rebs. But it isn’t even the stats that matter. Just having him out there sparked such a big difference. For one it clearly helped Danny Green. After going 2-14 in the first two games, he hit 7 3pters tonight to lead the Sixers with 21pts.
But Embiid’s return also helped tremendously on the defensive end. Bam Adebayo owned them in games one and two. He missed just 6 shots in those games. Tonight he was held to 9 pts on 2-9 shooting. Meaning he missed more shots tonight than he did in the first two games combined. Embiid played 36 minutes in his return.
He stayed on the court for the entire 3rd quarter, and into the 4th. All that despite just coming out of concussion protocol this morning, with a fractured orbital bone, and a thumb injury requiring surgery in the off-season. Even with the shooting struggles, he made his presence felt. And you saw that when late in the 4th, he put the Sixers up 4 with this 3pt play.
Embiid made a huge difference in his return tonight for the @sixers. Hear the audio from his 3pt play in the 4th quarter, that put the Sixers up 12, as called by @McGinnisThomas pic.twitter.com/oJrvMe77Pq— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) May 7, 2022
Things got a little too close for comfort for the Sixers in the 3rd. After leading by as much as 14, the Heat tied the game up. But that was when one Tyrese Maxey stepped up. After being held to 0pts in the first half, he exploded for 21 in the second. 15 of those pts came from 3pt range. With Harden in foul trouble, and Embiid’s shot being a bit rusty, Maxey stepped up.
Embiid’s return breathes new life into the Sixers, who looked dead just a day ago. The series is now 2-1 Heat, with one more game in Philly before the Sixers travel back down to Miami. They have their work cut out for them, as just 31 teams have ever come back from balling behind 2-0 in the NBA Playoffs. But how often do you see a team get back their best player in the third game of the series? The Bucks came back from down 0-2 twice last year on their road to the Finals. The Sixers will be looking to follow that same path. The Sixers will have Saturday off, before returning to the court Sunday night for Game 4.