Sixers-Heat Game 3 recap: Masked Joel Embiid returns, helping Philly to victory

As the 76ers’ second-round series moved to Philadelphia, Joel Embiid and his crotch-cutting ways returned to the lineup for Game 3. The Sixers eliminated the Heat 99-79 in a series-carrying defensive slugfest to a 2-1 lead in Miami.

Danny Green got hot, giving the Sixers a team-high 21 points. After a slow start, Tyrese Maxey took over late with 21 points on 88.3% true shooting and six assists. James Harden got off to a strong start, collecting 17 points with eight rebounds and six assists, and Embiid would finish with 18 points, 11 rebounds, one block and one steal while generally being dominant on the defensive end. Here are some instant takeaways from Game 3.

First half

  • It wasn’t much of a surprise to see the Sixers looking much more energetic early on in this game than they had in the previous two games. Rim protection was night and day from the previous two games, the Sixers held Miami to just 17 points in the first quarter and 34 points in the first half.
  • The attack was far from perfect at the start. It certainly took time for the big guy to get back into the groove after a week without any basketball activity, but they still managed to put some persistent pressure on the Heat’s defense heading for the basket. Despite concerns about his pre-match conditioning, Embiid’s first shift lasted around 10 minutes, which would normally be the case when he was fully healthy.
  • Seven turnovers in the first quarter, including four (five if you count the first possession of the second quarter) directly to end the quarter, allowed Miami to reduce the lead to four despite Philly truly outplaying the Heat for most of the first frame. The Sixers also continued to get killed on the offensive glass.
  • Because there was a legitimate concern, the Vault minutes were returned in their entirety to Paul Reed with Embiid’s availability. While the streak with Harden and Embiid on the bench was disastrous, a 9-0 run when Harden returned to the game put the Sixers back in the driver’s seat.
  • It was only a matter of time before the Sixers saw a positive shooting regression in this series. Danny Green’s first half was a big rebound from his performance in Game 2, going 3-4 from beyond the arc in the first half. Green would have been hot all night, finishing with 21 points on a 7-9 shot and leading the team in scoring!
  • The Sixers offense stalled with Harden on the bench, and that was especially evident with The Beard having to sit out the final two minutes of the half at fault. This problem continued to hamper the Sixers as Harden committed his fourth foul early in the third.

Second part

  • After a strong start to the half that saw the lead increase to 12, Philly’s offense got really sloppy. They struggled to keep the basketball with all the traps Miami threw at them, especially with Harden on the bench. Jimmy Butler really became a nuisance in the third, 12 of his game-high 33 came in the period.
  • It had started as a night off for Tyrese Maxey, but his five-point push late in the third quarter might have saved the game. His three stopped a 20-6 Heat run that woke up the Sixers and the crowd.
  • The Sixers went to Bball Paul a little later than usual in the second half, leaving Embiid to start the fourth quarter. This adjustment worked well for Philly, as they were able to push the lead back to seven during that streak and Embiid would return to an 11-point lead.
  • If his third-quarter push saved the game, his fourth-quarter run put him aside. Maxey only scored with less than three minutes remaining in the third, but once he did he was sure to leave an impact. His game of running almost flipping and jumping out of bounds was absolutely insane.
  • Just at the end of the match, Embiid took a very good unintentional blow to the head of Bam Adebayo. He would stay in the game to shoot his free throws and hopefully nothing bad will come of it.

The Sixers get the most important victory. Falling 3-0 would have been a death sentence. Now if they win Game 4, it’s all over.

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