The 76ers beat the Heat 128-108 on Thursday night in Miami, to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round NBA playoff series. And the Sixers certainly got a big boost from the return of their star seven-footer, Joel Embiid.
After not playing since March 28 with an orbital bone fracture (and after making it quite clear he’s sick of being held out), Embiid made his return to the floor for Game 3 and filled up the box score. A masked Embiid had 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in the victory.
Embiid showed off his unique, versatile skillset for a “traditional” center, going 3-of-4 from three-point range. One of those threes tied the game late in the first half, and he followed it by shushing the Miami crowd.
And this three he hit in the final five minutes served as the dagger:
There was also some drama involving his protective mask. Miami’s Justise Winslow stomped on the mask, and after the game, Embiid was asked about it.
Embiid said that he has about 50 of those masks (so he doesn’t care if the Heat break them), and he said he’s going to be a “nightmare” for the Heat the rest of the series.
Joel Embiid says he's going to be a "nightmare" for the Heat and he has about 50 more masks just in case anyone wants to try breaking one ? pic.twitter.com/AtGTnubfN2
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) April 20, 2018
The 24-year-old is likely to indeed be a nightmare for the Heat the rest of the series. Embiid didn’t miss a beat in his return to the court after averaging 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks on the season. And there’s no reason to expect him to slow down now, especially with how motivated he appears to be.
It’s clear the Heat are going to have their hands full in trying to limit Embiid in the rest of the series, but they’re going to need to find a way to do so in what is essentially a must-win Game 4. It’s hard to see Miami coming back to win this series if they have to win three straight games, with two of those being in Philadelphia.
The crucial Game 4 will take place on Saturday afternoon in Miami.