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The Sixers Celebrated Joel Embiid’s Return By Beating The Heat In Game 3

The Philadelphia 76ers got a big boost in the lead-up to Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Miami Heat, as it was announced that Joel Embiid would return from a concussion and an orbital fracture as the series shifted back to the City of Brotherly Love. Between his debut in the series and one of the worst offensive performances the Heat had this year, Philly was able to pick up a 99-79 win to cut Miami’s series lead in half.

The first half was perhaps the ugliest half of basketball that we have seen this postseason. After Miami jumped out to an early 6-4 lead, Philadelphia was able to get the home crowd engaged with a 14-2 run that saw the Heat go nearly five minutes without scoring a point.

While a 12-point first quarter lead is hardly insurmountable, the Sixers were able to use that to create a cushion that existed for essentially the remainder of the half. Miami never got within four points from that point on prior to going into the locker room, as Philadelphia pestered them on defense and threw them completely out of the rhythm they had through the first two games of the series. While Jimmy Butler had 10 points and six rebounds at the break, no one else on the Heat scored more than six, and as a team, Miami shot 14-for-43 (32.6 percent) from the field and 2-for-16 (12.5 percent) from three.

As a result, the Sixers entered the locker room with a 41-34 cushion, powered in large part by a big first half from James Harden — he scored eight of his 15 points from the charity stripe with four rebounds and two assists — nine points from Danny Green, and seven points and seven boards from Embiid in his return.

Out of the break, both offenses started to find their footing. Butler, in particular, gave the Heat a huge lift, scoring 14 of the team’s 31 points in the third quarter. The team doubled-up their first half total by knocking down four threes, and found themselves only down 68-65 heading into the fourth.

Perhaps the most surprising development for the Sixers was the play of Green, who has long been a bellwether for his team’s chances of winning a game throughout his career. By the end of the third, the veteran had 18 points and made six of his seven attempts from three.

But at the start of the fourth, Miami’s offense cratered once again. Philadelphia opened up a double-digit lead by scoring the first seven points of the frame until Bam Adebayo got to the charity stripe more than three minutes in and hit a pair of free throws.

Even when it looked like Miami was going to have easy baskets, the Sixers managed to come out on top. No better example of that came when PJ Tucker stripped Harden and tried to throw a pass to Victor Oladipo, but led him just a little too much. As a result, Tyrese Maxey raced out ahead of him and made one of the best defensive plays we have seen this season, which led to an Embiid jumper that went in as he got fouled by Adebayo.

Green went 7-for-9 from three for 21 points, which was tied with Maxey for the most on the Sixers. Embiid scored 18 points and pulled in 11 rebounds in his return, while Harden had 17 with eight boards and six assists. Butler’s 33 led all scorers while Tyler Herro had 14 off the bench.

Game 4 between the Sixers and the Heat will take place on Sunday evening. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.