Joel Embiid returns to lead the 76ers to Game 3 victory over Heat

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PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid inspired the Philadelphia 76ers with his return from a facial injury, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey each scored 21 points and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 99-79 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday night.

Wearing a black mask, Embiid had 18 points and 11 rebounds after missing the first two games of the series.

Jimmy Butler scored 33 points for the Heat, who led the series 2-1. Game 4 is in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Embiid sat out the first two games with a fractured right eye socket and a minor concussion he sustained in the last round. Embiid wasn’t the dominant force he was throughout the season. With Green, Maxey and James Harden crushing all Big Bucket Heat rallies, Embiid didn’t have to wear the Sixers.

But the 76ers sure were glad he was back.

“Any plan where you can have Joel as part of the plan is a much better plan,” coach Doc Rivers said before the game.

Joel Embiid finished his return from injury with 18 points.
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Not even Rivers could come up with a plan involving play that helped close the game: Maxey sprinted across the court to save a basketball with an over-the-shoulder throw. The 76ers kept the ball and Embiid buried a fallaway bucket and pocketed the free throw for an 86-74 lead.

Embiid was good. green was better. Green Buried made 6 of 7 3-pointers through three quarters, highlighted by those snorting Miami runs and extending the Sixers’ lead to 54-50 and 57-51. Green missed 9 of 10 3s in Game 2.

However, Tyler Herro had two critical 3s in the last minute and pulled the heat to 68-65 to close the third. He had 14 and joined Butler as the only heat in double digits.

Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler’s game high of 33 points wasn’t enough for the Heat.

Maxey’s last 3-pointer made it 92-77, and suddenly the Sixers have new life in the series.

The 76ers have never won a playoff series in 19 tries after losing their first two games.

The return of the NBA scoring champion helps those odds.

Embiid’s status was upgraded from out to doubtful, which led to in play and Philly gushed that the big man would be playing. As he jogged with the mask on to warm up, Sixers fans erupted and started the “MVP! MVP!” chants that are a staple in the arena. When Sixers speaker Matt Cord announced in the pregame report that “there are no injuries,” Sixers fans went into a frenzy. Embiid easily heard the biggest ovations during lineup performances and the Sixers were energized by his presence. Sometimes it was hard to tell that Embiid had missed so much time.

Tyrese Maxey reacts during the 76ers' Game 3 win over the Heat.
Tyrese Maxey reacts during the 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Heat.
NBAE via Getty Images

“There was nothing he could do because of the concussion,” Rivers said. “So he wasn’t able to run and do other things that all of us great athletes would do.”

Embiid is still playing with a right thumb ligament injury requiring off-season surgery. Embiid — who led the 76ers this season with 30.6 points and 11.7 rebounds — impacted Game 3 just by his presence. Miami All-Star center Bam Adebayo, who had 24 points in Game 1 and 23 in Game 2, was held to just five in the first half.

Harden even excelled with 15 points at halftime after games of 16 and 20 points in the series. He finished at 17. Joel Embiid returns to lead the 76ers to Game 3 victory over Heat

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