As improbable as it seemed until hours before tipoff, Joel Embiid made his return for the Sixers in Game 3 leading his team the way no one else can. Trailing 0-2 in the series, the Sixers were in need of a spark, and their superstar was just the guy to do it. Sporting his all-black face mask, Embiid looked as healthy as anyone could have hoped and helped the Sixers get back to looking like the team they have been for the bulk of the season.
Philly had a noticeably improved effort defensively and held to Heat to 17 points or less in three of the four quarters. The Sixers won the game 99-79, and this was the first time holding Miami under 100 points in the series. The win pushes the series to a 2-1 lead in Miami’s favor, and this was a necessary sign of life for the Sixers.
Joel Embiid’s Return
Despite being listed as “out” yesterday and “doubtful” until under an hour before the game, Joel Embiid was able to make his return. He did not dominate statistically, but his presence changed the game drastically on both sides of the floor. The defensive effort is a massive credit to Embiid’s paint presence. He also made a major difference defending Bam Adebayo, who ended the game with 9 points, three rebounds, three turnovers, and was a -22 on the game. He also was 0-3 on shots in the paint.
Embiid ended the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes of play. The Sixers were pretty loose with the minutes limit that was discussed prior to the game. The presence of Embiid changed how the Heat defended the Sixers and opened things up for the rest of the team. From the uplifting of spirits of the team to the schematic changes the Heat made, Embiid was vital to this Sixers win.
Danny Green’s Strong Play
It has been an ugly start to the series for Danny Green. In Games One and Two, Danny Green shot 2-14 from beyond the three-point arc. He received boos from the home crowd when his name was announced due to his poor play.
This changed in Game 3 as Danny Green got hot from beyond the arc. He tied for the Sixers’ leading scorer with 21 points in the game. Green was 7-9 from beyond the arc and was the biggest beneficiary of the spacing that Joel Embiid provided. The off-ball movement produced open looks for the veteran shooting guard, and Green was able to capitalize. While Green is surely past his prime, he is still one of the most intelligent players in the NBA.
Tyrese Maxey Stepping Up
The Sixers held a comfortable lead for most of the game. They needed someone to step up and help put it away. Tyrese Maxey proved capable of being this guy and put the game away for the Sixers in the 4th quarter. After having zero points at half-time, Maxey turned things around in the second half completely and ended up tied for their leading scorer with 21 points in the game.
The Kentucky product had also struggled with his three-point shooting in the first two games but shot 4-5 from beyond the arc in this matchup. Tyrese Maxey has continually proved he is not afraid to step up in big moments, and the performance in Game 3 was further evidence of this. His impact during the minutes when Embiid was off the court was vital to the Sixers securing the win.
Sixers/Heat Series Outlook
Throughout NBA history, only 7.1% of teams have been able to come back from being down 2-0 in a series. History may not be in the Sixers’ favor, but they should be feeling pretty confident about where they are at. The matchup looked entirely different with Joel Embiid in the game, and this will continue to be a concern for the Heat moving forward.
The series will pick up on Sunday as the Sixers have a chance to tie the series at two wins apiece. It is tough to count out a team with Joel Embiid on it, and his return has clearly brought back life to the team. Look for the Sixers to build off this effort and continue turning things around. This second-round series is far from over.