This series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat have improved after game three. That depends which team you are rooting for.
Joel Embiid made his playoff debut wearing a mask. A mask that Justise Winslow stepped on in the middle of the game. Embiid may have preferred not wearing the mask in the first place.
Embiid’s first playoff game was still a success for Philadelphia. The All-Star center returned from a 10-game absence by scoring 23 points, including a personal 7-0 run that put the game out of reach, and the 76ers regained control of their Eastern Conference first-round series by topping the Miami Heat 128-108.
“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands, but little do they know is I have about 50 of them, so it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of this series,” Embiid said after Game 3.
The Twitterverse was in anticipation of Embiid not officially out of the game leading up to the tip. Thursday began with the 76ers saying Embiid wasn’t likely to play. His status was upgraded to probable in the afternoon, and then he finally was inserted into the starting lineup — medical clearance coming from the team, mask clearance coming from the NBA after the league signed off on the dark, translucent, carbon-fiber, goggled apparatus that was made in consultation with independent experts.
The mask came off a couple of times, and at one point Winslow stepped on Embiid’s mask in the second quarter. Winslow was fined $15,000 for intentionally stepping on the facemask of the All-Star center the NBA announced. Miami which got 19 points from Winslow all in the first half.
Tempers were high in game three, Dwyane Wade and Justin Anderson at one point shared hellos in shoving way. The teams combined for 56 personal fouls — Heat 30, 76ers 26. Each squad also was whistled for three technicals.
Embiid did not have a hard day in the office being defended. And Miami was unable to Heat up per say. Hassan Whiteside was in foul trouble and ineffective, finishing the night all of 1 for one from the field for five points. Dwyane Wade had no flash in this game shooting 2 for 10. Wayne Ellington, Miami’s single-season leader in 3-pointers after making a record 227 this season, was 1 for five from the floor.
Goran Dragic scored 23 points for the Heat who also got 14 from Josh Richardson.
The 76ers outscored the Heat 32-14 in the fourth quarter, and now have a 2-1 lead in the series. Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric contributed 21 for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists.
The beat goes on to game four where added physical play is anticipated.