76ers

Shocker! Sixers blow another huge lead

Shocker! Sixers blow another huge lead

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Sixers surrendered an 18-point lead and were outscored 19-0 in a fourth-quarter spurt as the Trail Blazers staged a 114-110 comeback Thursday night at the Moda Center. 

The Sixers came off a 34-point third quarter to only fall flat minutes after the break between periods. The Trail Blazers transformed the Sixers’ 88-74 lead with 11:11 to play into a 93-88 deficit halfway through the fourth. The Sixers committed five turnovers and shot 0 for 5 from the field during that stretch.

Joel Embiid hit a flurry of threes (see more below) to cut the deficit to 111-108 with 9.2 seconds to play. The Sixers were whistled for a line violation, however, after Dario Saric went over the line to defend the inbound pass. C.J. McCollum pushed the lead to four with a technical foul free throw. The Trail Blazers scored 42 points in the decisive quarter. 

• The Trail Blazers pulled off the win without All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. He missed his third straight game with a right hamstring strain. They had to make up for his 25.2 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds and did that with a trio of 20-plus point performances. 

• McCollum scored a total of five points over 36 minutes in his first game against the Sixers this season. The shooting guard would not have a repeat performance. McCollum posted 14 points in the first quarter alone en route to 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists on the night.

• Jusuf Nurkic recorded a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double while fill-in point guard Shabazz Napier dropped 23 points, including a massive 15 in the fourth. 

• Embiid started off the game settling in beyond the arc. He went 3 for 5 from three in the first quarter and drained 5 of 11 on the night, including three in the final 2:06. Embiid fell just shy of a double-double with 29 points and nine boards in 35 minutes. 

• Dario Saric bounced back from his poor shooting performance against the Knicks with an efficient 25 points (10 for 12 from the field, 5 for 6 from three), nine rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes. One of his assists was to McConnell, keeping the #TrustTheFriendship mantra going.

• Robert Covington suffered a left middle finger injury and did not return to the game. He attempted just two field goals in 24 minutes (four points) and did not take his first three attempts until two minutes remaining in the first half (he made it). 

• Justin Anderson (shin splints) was cleared to play for the first time since Nov. 15. Brett Brown explained before the game it was unlikely Anderson would have a major role in this game given the fact he has been through only one practice and the coach is using a tight rotation. 

• Anderson, Richaun Holmes and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot did not play. At shootaround, Brown noted the physicality and size of Nurkic (7-foot, 280 pounds) wasn’t favorable to a matchup with Holmes. 

• The Sixers, who entered the game last in the NBA in turnovers, had better control over the ball through three (six turnovers). They gave up 12 points off eight turnovers in the fourth.

• The Trail Blazers took 47 free throw attempts compared to only 14 by the Sixers.

Following the game, McCollum said, "Basketball gods looking out for us. I think that was big."

McCollum and Nurkic combined for 30 attempts.

• The Sixers dropped to 15-19 while the Trail Blazers improved to 18-16. The Sixers’ next game is Saturday in Denver against the Nuggets.  

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — "We're not here to make friends. We're here to win the series." 

With those two sentences, Joel Embiid made it known what he is all about in the playoffs.

The big man fought to return from an orbital fracture to help the Sixers win, and that’s exactly what he did in his first game since March 28. Embiid led the team with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal over 30 minutes in his NBA postseason debut … while wearing a mask with goggles (see story)

“I was excited,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 128-108 victory Thursday in Game 3 (see observations). “Worked really hard for it. Promised the city that and made it happen. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t play in that first at home because we have a special connection. But I’m glad, came back today and we got a win.” 

Embiid sent a message — he is back, and not backing down. Sitting at the podium with a calm confidence, he talked about everything from his desire to return to in-game chippiness to defending his teammates. 

“I hate sitting out,” Embiid said. “I felt like it was time to come back, especially after watching how physical the game was, Game 2. I love this moment, I love being physical, I love attacking, I love contact.” 

Returning meant wearing a protective mask on his face. Though irksome in some ways, Embiid noted his game is too strong to be held back. 

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player. If the shots aren’t falling and it gets foggy or I can’t see, there’s a lot of different stuff I can do, especially defensively because I feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league.”

There was plenty of contact in Game 3, and his mask wasn’t safe from it either. At one point, Embiid’s goggles landed on the court. Justise Winslow stepped on them, downplaying it after the game. 

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

Embiid didn’t quite see the situation as “throwing it on the ground.” He added an extra punch to the end of his recount. 

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.” 

When the game was in hand, Embiid was eager to see the Sixers finish with as large a margin of victory as possible. He thought back to Game 2 when Goran Dragic scored a layup with 1.2 seconds to play, and how Jordan Clarkson had thrown a ball at Dario Saric for scoring similarly during the regular season in Cleveland. So on Thursday, Embiid wanted them to run up the scoreboard. 

“I wish I was there in that Game 2 because I was kind of pissed about it,” Embiid said. “It’s basketball. It’s always good to blow a team out. I think we were up 18 or 20. If you could get that lead up to 22, I think it’s good. I love blowing teams out. I like the fact that we did that.” 

There's less than 48 hours until the Heat will look to bounce back in Game 4 and even up the series. Embiid knows the Sixers are in for a battle. 

And he likes that. 

“Game 4, they’re going to try to do what they did at Game 2, come out and be really, really extra aggressive and try to punch us in the mouth,” Embiid said. “We’ve got to be ready for that and I’ll for sure be ready.” 

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Joel Embiid is 1-0 in the playoffs.

The Sixers beat the Heat, 128-108, Thursday with their mask-wearing center back in the starting lineup to take a 2-1 lead on the series. 

• Embiid made his long-awaited return, playing in his postseason debut and first game since March 28. Donning a face mask with goggles (see story), Embiid rejoined the starting lineup. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. 

He looked eager as well as affected at times by the long layoff from the left orbital fracture and concussion. He was aggressive at getting to the line (and drawing fouls on Hassan Whiteside), but shot 10 for 15 once there. Embiid knocked down threes (3 of 4), at the same time committing a 24-second violation trying to back down to the basket. Considering how long it’s been since he played, Embiid’s conditioning looked better than expected. 

• This game was not decided until the final quarter. The Sixers led, 96-94, after three. Brett Brown started Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Embiid to open the fourth. That group outscored the Heat 9-1 to push the lead to 10 and change the tone of the remainder of the game. 

• First it was Kelly Olynyk. Then it was Dwyane Wade. In Game 3, Justise Winslow was the offensive spark plug off the Miami bench. Winslow scored 19 points in the first half, seven more than the Heat’s next leading scorer. He also was an agitator throughout the game, continuing to try to get under the Sixers’ skin as he had done in the previous games. Check out what happened with the goggles from Embiid’s mask.

• Justin Anderson looked like he had been waiting for this defensive assignment all season. Brown tasked him with defending Wade in the first half, and that matchup turned chippy. Anderson and Wade both were called for physical taunting technical fouls after Anderson pushed off on Wade and Wade grabbed his arm and flung him around. Anderson had played less than two minutes in the series prior to Game 3. 

• The game was physical with whistles and double techs throughout the night. Just how physical was it?

• Late in the third quarter, the Sixers rolled out the lineup of T.J. McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Anderson, Ilyasova and Embiid. None of these players are hesitant to mix things up. At one point a play culminated with Embiid and Anderson jumping up to block an Olynyk shot with the Heat forward landing on the ground. 

• Brown had planned to play Markelle Fultz more than the five minutes he clocked in Game 2. That didn’t happen. Fultz was on the court for 4:21 in the first half without a shot attempt (one rebound, one assist, two fouls). McConnell got the backup point guard minutes in the second half. 

• Game 4 will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on NBCSP in Miami.