Skip to main content

After struggling on the road and getting off to an 0-2 start in the second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers got a huge boost from their injured superstar Joel Embiid on Friday night during Game 3.

Embiid, who was battling a concussion and an orbital fracture, was cleared from the NBA’s concussion protocol late in the week. Although he was initially ruled out for Game 3 against the Heat, the big man saw his playing status upgraded to doubtful after participating in a Friday morning shootaround.

As expected, Embiid was cleared for action under an hour before Game 3 tipped off. While he didn’t put on an MVP-caliber performance, his presence on both ends of the ball was evident. And the Sixers found a way to get in the winner’s column for the first time in the Eastern Conference semifinals series.

On Sunday, the Sixers and the Heat returned to South Philly for the fourth matchup of the series. Once again, Embiid was cleared for action after being listed as questionable beforehand.

While the first three games between the Sixers and the Heat were lopsided battles, Game 4 started out as a tight matchup. 

In the first quarter of action, Sixers center Joel Embiid put his team on his back. As he played the entire quarter, the big man went 5-6 from the field and was a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line, scoring 15 of Philadelphia’s 30 points out of the gate.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Embiid got the show started, but 76ers guard James Harden took over from there on out. In the ten minutes Harden appeared on the court in the second quarter, he was nearly perfect from the field as he knocked down three of his four shots. From the charity stripe, Harden went 5-6 and collected 13 points as the Sixers rallied off 34 more points.

Going into halftime, Philadelphia possessed a 64-56 lead. While they didn’t dominate the first half as they did in Game 3, the Sixers knew they had a prime opportunity to sustain their first-half success and build on top of their lead.

However, the Heat weren’t going down easy. As Miami knocked down 42-percent of their shots and got a 17-point showing from Jimmy Butler out of the half, the Heat outscored the Sixers 29-25 as they looked to close in on the 76ers’ lead.

Harden and the Sixers knew they needed to stay sharp in the fourth quarter to avoid losing their momentum. On Sunday night, the ten-time All-Star delivered when he needed to the most. 

In the final 12 minutes of action, Harden chucked up nine shots from the field, with six of those attempts coming from beyond the arc. He drained five of his shots and two free throws for another 16 points in the fourth quarter. 

As the Sixers rallied off another 27 points, the Heat struggled to counter as successful shots were hard to come by for Miami. 

With the Heat having another tough shooting night, Harden and the Sixers capitalized on their opponent’s struggles and collected a 116-108 victory. Harden led the charge with 31 points in 40 minutes. With a second-straight victory, the Sixers tied the second-round series up at two before they hit the road to Miami for a Game 5 battle that will take place on Tuesday night. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.