The Philadelphia 76ers got a big boost Friday night when their All-Star and probably soon-to-be league MVP Joel Embiid returned after missing the for two games of their second round series against the Miami Heat with a broken orbital bone and concussion.
Embiid did his job on the offensive end as he had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and he also anchored a defense that held Miami to 79 points as Philly defeated the Heat 99-79 at Wells Fargo Center.
Miami still leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday night in Philly.
According to StatHead, this marked the first time since the 2012 postseason where Philly has held an opponent to fewer than 80 points.
After the win, head coach Doc Rivers discussed the presence of Embiid.
“I mean, just his presence, obviously, to start the game,” Rivers said. “His energy, his rebounding. His ability at the basket. I’ve said it all year; you could see his timing was off a little bit. But his presence defensively, I really don’t – I don’t think he gets enough credit how good of a defensive player he is and how much he helps us. And I thought tonight; it was a lot of that.”
According to Embiid, he did not have a lot of energy, but he was pleased with what he did defensively.
“I didn’t think I had a lot of energy, honestly,” Embiid said. “I was really trying to really get through it. Kind of, you just use my presence out there as a decoy. I feel like I pride myself really defensively. And I feel like that’s where my presence is really felt. On the defensive end. So that’s one of the main reasons why playing I thought I could have a huge impact.”
Embiid, who stayed back in Philly for Games 1 & 2, had a hard time watching his team struggle in Miami.
“It was very annoying just watching,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t make shots, but we also made a lot of mistakes. Whether it was offensive rebounding or turnovers. Their big fella, Bam [Adebayo], was dominating. And I was really pissed off watching another big man play well against my team. It’s unfortunate. Can’t take it back. Now we’ve just got to focus on the next game.”
Role players play better at home, and Danny Green played his role and then some as he had a team-high tying 21 points, including a playoff career-high seven threes.
In the first two games of this series, Green was 2-14 from deep, but that all changed Friday night. However, he’s not satisfied.
“It felt good to be able to help my team and do my job, that’s it,” Green said. “I’m not in any way, shape, or form satisfied; we are not taking any deep breaths or exhaling; we know we have to win another game, so we have to stay locked in and focused, taking it one game at a time, hopefully, we can keep that momentum and have another decent shooting night on Sunday.”
After going scoreless in the first half, Maxey went off in the second half as he had 21 points, including 14 points in the fourth.
“I just started being aggressive,’ Maxey said. “I kind of was, you know, let the game come to me a little bit. Got the Big Fella [Joel Embiid] back. James [Harden] was attacking and doing a really good job of that. And, I don’t really have to force anything. It’s kind of get it where I can fit in at, and when it’s time to make some big shots, I’m gonna try to make some big shots.”
The 76ers have a chance in this series as long as Embiid is on the court, and while he was not at his best, he was good enough. Can we expect Miami to shoot 35% from the floor and go 7/30 downtown in Game 4? Probably not. However, in his second game back, Embiid might be better, and the 76ers, who had 19 turnovers in Game 3, could be better on offense as well.
If Philly wants to make it a series, they have to win Game 4, and we’ll see if they can make that happen on Sunday.
For the Heat, Jimmy Butler scored a game-best 33 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals.
Back to Danny Green. he joins former 76er Seth Curry(who was in attendance Friday night) and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson as the only players in team history with at least seven made three-pointers in a playoff game (Stathead).
James Harden had 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had seven turnovers.
As a team, Philadelphia shot well from beyond the arc(16-33 (.485).