Well, we have a series. With Joel Embiid back in action, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 99-79 in Game 3 of their second-round matchup on Friday, cutting Miami’s series lead to 2-1 before Game 4 on Sunday.
Here are three takeaways from Philly’s victory.
1. Joel Embiid saves the day
Embiid wasn’t at his best, but he had a massive presence at both ends finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds. It is no coincidence that Miami scored only 79 points. Only 28 of them came in the paint, down from the 47 paint points Miami had averaged through the first two games.
The Miami penetrators could be seen thinking twice before facing Embiid on the inside. That put the onus on the shooters, and it didn’t go well with Miami going 7-for-30 from behind the arc.
In today’s parlance, a center’s versatility, his ability to protect the rim Y handled on the perimeter, it has become our main barometer of impact. Sometimes one-on-one defense is still important, and Bam Adebayo, the fulcrum of so many preferred Miami stocks, couldn’t do anything with Embiid.
Adebayo finished with nine points, three rebounds and, above all, only one assist. Without Adebayo shooting at his typical level, the Heat had to create more individually. No one was up to the challenge other than Jimmy Butler, who finished with 33 points but didn’t get enough help as Tyler Herro was the only other Heat player to score in double figures.
Offensively, though Embiid couldn’t find his midrange touch, the attention he draws at least somewhere freed James Harden from the waves of defenders he faced through the first two games. Miami still sent Harden doubles, mostly in the second half, but with two defensive concerns, Tyrese Maxey, the third wheel, got going in the money time, scoring 14 of his 21 points (all of which came in the second half). half) in the fourth trimester
On its own, the emotional boost Embiid provided was evident. The crowd. His teammates. When your MVP candidate, already on the heels of a concussion, is in a Zorro face mask because he has a broken orbital bone, plus a torn ligament in his thumb that will require off-season surgery, you’re going to be riding. a rush of adrenaline. Embiid is a beast. He showed it again on Friday, and now it’s a series.
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2. Hi Danny Green
How nice of you to show up! After going 2-for-14 from 3 through the first two games, Green tied his career playoff high with 21 points on 7-for-9 3-point shooting in Game 3. That’s one shy of the record for Allen Iverson’s franchise in the playoffs.
He did his job from the corners, which is key to unlocking Philly’s pick-and-roll game, as it helps defenders not let the post sink (as they can when Matisse Thybulle camps out in the corner).
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Green can make as many 3-pointers as the entire Heat team in Game 4 again, this series will be tied on Sunday night.
3. James Harden temperature control
Harden finished with 17 points on 4-for-11 shooting. He was 1-for-7 from 3. He racked up seven turnovers. He managed to make his way to the free throw line eight times, sinking them all. Harden still isn’t creating much downhill influence against established defenses. It’s pretty clear he’s not going to transform into the scorer he used to be. I liked that when he didn’t have paths in the early/semi-transition offense, he would attack and get to the rim or the line. That’s where he can still do damage, with an all-star run against a shaky defense.
As mentioned above, Harden still saw doubles and is still a top-tier playmaker, which is his main asset these days. With Embiid back, simply cutting down on his turnovers would be a huge boost moving forward. A few 3s going back would really help.
I find myself wondering what Doc Rivers was thinking by not staggering Harden’s minutes with Embiid’s. The two rested together and it resulted in some pretty nasty Philly possessions. I guess Rivers likes those two together; I guess it’s because he knows Harden can’t create like he used to on his own, and now relies much more on the two-man game to perform at an elite level, and Rivers is also likely giving Maxey a chance to cook. . as the best option without Embiid or Harden.
But it didn’t go well on some particular stages on Friday, and I’ll be curious to see if Rivers sticks to the same deployment tactics on Sunday.