Embiid scores 23 in playoff debut as 76ers trounce Heat

(Reuters) Joel Embiid scored 23 points in his first career playoff game to lift the Philadelphia 76ers past the host Miami Heat 128-108 Thursday at American Airlines Arena.

Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli added 21 points each for the Sixers, who took a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 looming today. Ben Simmons had a terrific all-around game with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Robert Covington also had 11 points and JJ Redick had 10.

Embiid had been out with an orbital bone injury and was forced to wear a protective mask. He went through three different masks during the game and looked uncomfortable at times in the first half.

Embiid said of his return to action: “I’m going to be a nightmare for (the Heat). … “Since I went down, my teammates kind of did a good job of just holding it down and winning every game. … But I hate sitting out. I felt like it was time to come back, especially after watching how physical that Game 2 was.

“I love this moment. I love being physical. I love attacking. I love contact. I felt like they needed me in that way. We had a conversation and I’m glad they let me play.”

Goran Dragic led the Heat with 23 points while Justise Winslow added 19. Josh Richardson scored 14 points, James Johnson contributed 12 and Tyler Johnson had 10.

“It’s clear the first game and the third game were played on their terms,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, according to the Miami Herald. “We do not want this to be a crawl. Not (that) that’s how we play either. But we certainly don’t want these crawling into 130s. That’s definitely in their wheelhouse. And we paid the price for that.”

Ersan Ilyasova knocked down a 3-pointer less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, giving the Sixers a 103-95 lead. Two free throws by Simmons pushed the lead to 10 at 105-95 with 9:11 remaining.

A dunk by Hassan Whiteside and a jumper by James Johnson got the Heat within 105-99 with 8:12 left. Richardson later hit a trey, cutting the lead to 107-102.

Saric responded with a huge 3-pointer and a layup on consecutive possessions to put the Sixers back up 112-102.

Embiid then took over with a bank shot from the top of the key and a trey for a 117-105 advantage with 4:25 left.

A third double technical was called with 8:15 left in the third on Belinelli and Dragic.

The intensity seemed to energize Dragic as the Heat went ahead 78-73 after he drained a deep jumper. The Sixers scored the next five points and Embiid’s 3-pointer tied the game at 78.

Philadelphia took a slim 96-94 advantage following the third.

The game was quite physical for the entire first half as there were a pair of double technicals whistled, first on Philadelphia’s Justin Anderson and Miami’s Dwyane Wade and later on Simmons and James Johnson.

The Heat led 64-63 at halftime.

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