A masked Joel Embiid scored 23 points in his postseason debut, Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric each added 21 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 128-108 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for the 76ers, who won for the 18th time in their last 19 games and reclaimed home-court advantage. Embiid went on a personal 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to help Philadelphia extend its lead to 14, and send many in the crowd to the exits.
Goran Dragic scored 23 points for Miami, which got 19 from Justise Winslow and 14 from Josh Richardson.
Game 4 is Saturday afternoon.
Embiid was announced as doubtful to start the day, then was upgraded to probable in the afternoon and eventually cleared to start. He wore a mask and goggles to protect the surgically repaired orbital bone around his left eye, though his new accessory didn’t exactly seem up to the rigors of playoff basketball – needing to be swapped out at least twice.
The mask needs some work.
Embiid was right back in form.
He banked in a turnaround straightaway jumper – a fortuitous bounce – to put Philadelphia up nine late, then connected on a 3-pointer and added a pair of throws to start the spurt that put the game away for Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Miami couldn’t find any sort of stride.
Hassan Whiteside was mired in foul trouble and ineffective, finishing the night all of 1 for 1 from the field for five points. Dwyane Wade, who Miami needed to be superb in the win at Philadelphia in Game 2, shot 2 for 10. Wayne Ellington, Miami’s single-season leader in 3-pointers after making a record 227 this season, was 1 for 5 from the floor.
The Heat won Game 2 by controlling the physical battle.
Game 3 was another street fight, and Philadelphia didn’t back down.
There were 31 fouls and four technicals called in the first half, an opening 24 minutes where Wade and Justin Anderson got feisty, Winslow stepped on Embiid’s broken-off goggles and the teams took 45 free throws.
Some basketball was played on occasion as well. There were 14 lead changes and nine ties in the half, the Heat taking a 64-63 lead into the break.
Philadelphia landed the first blow, going on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to take a 32-21 lead. Miami got within four to end the opening quarter, and by then the physicality was already amped-up on both ends.
The final count on the whistles: 30 fouls for the Heat, 26 for the 76ers, and three technicals each as well.
But just like in Game 1, Philadelphia pulled away after halftime – and now it’s the Heat back on the ropes.
76ers: Philadelphia had a pair of shooters fouled beyond the 3-point line in the first quarter: Robert Covington made two of his three free throws, and Belinelli turned his chance into a four-point play. … Embiid missed his first five shots, then put his finger to his lips in the universal ”shush” sound to the crowd after getting his first one to fall.
Heat: Winslow’s previous season high for scoring was 18. … Wade, who carried Miami to the win at Philadelphia in Game 2, didn’t get his first field goal in this one until 2:46 was left in the third. … The Heat allowed Philadelphia to shoot 51 percent,
The game was preceded by a moment of silence to remember the lives of Erin Popovich, the wife of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, and former first lady Barbara Bush. 76ers coach Brett Brown is a former a Spurs assistant who has remained close with the Popovich family, and said Erin Popovich ”was a star, like a real star. A very strong woman, and somebody that will be missed.”
Among those in the sold-out crowd were former Heat point guards Mario Chalmers and Jason Williams, the starters on Miami’s three NBA championship teams. Both got warm ovations when shown on the videoboards around the arena.
Game 4 is Saturday in Miami.