The big story for the Philadelphia 76ers heading into their semifinal matchup against the Miami Heat was the status of Joel Embiid. After taking a blow to the face from Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, the MVP finalist suffered a fractured orbital bone and a mild concussion.
From the beginning, the hope was that Embiid would be able to make his return when the series shifted to Philadelphia. That is exactly what happened as he brought back his iconic facemask look in Game 3.
Despite minimal time on the court leading up to the action, Embiid was able to play 36 minutes and tally 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds. His return, and other factors, allowed the Sixers to come away with a dominant 99-79 win.
Like he’s been known for in the past, Embiid took to social media after the big victory. The All-Star center posted a picture of himself in the mask with a quote from Batman villain Bane in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ Former Sixer and Heat star Jimmy Butler decided to poke fun at Embiid in the comments.
Jimmy Butler Opens Up On Embiid’s Return
While they had been anticipating a return from Embiid, this was Miami’s first time squaring off against a fully healthy Sixers team this season. In a sense, they had to completely scrap their game plan from Games 1 and 2 because he is such a difference-maker. Following the loss in Game 3, Jimmy Butler opened up on how Embiid’s return changed things.
“You add Jo to any team, home or away, the game, the scouting report, it changes drastically. He’s been like that for his entire career but that’s not really the reason why we lost that game. We didn’t get back, we turned the ball over, we didn’t get stops, we fouled, there was a lot that went into that but he is a big part of it,” said Butler.
Even though he wasn’t at 100%, Embiid is still a player who commands a lot of attention. He will do whatever it takes to get his team in the win column, and he proved that in Game 3. Embiid’s heart and resilience are what have turned him into one of the league’s top talents.
Sixers Have Chance To Flip The Script
With Embiid back in the lineup, the Sixers have an opportunity to flip the script in this series. His presence alone drastically changed things, and they were able to capitalize. The Heat are a smart team and will make adjustments, but the Sixers are slowly shifting the momentum in their favor.
Part of what makes the Sixers’ offense so lethal is the attention Embiid garners. Just being out there, no matter what shape he’s in, can be beneficial for the entire team. Miami constantly sent extra help to Embiid, which created open looks for those around him. More importantly, it created mismatches for guys like Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey, who were able to exploit them in the Game 3 win.
It was evident early on that getting Embiid back galvanized the Sixers. Continuing to ride this wave is crucial as they look to tie the series before heading back to Miami.