NBA Playoffs: Embiid leads 76ers to win, Mavericks dim the Suns' glory
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - It was a defensive showcase by the Philadelphia 76ers in their 99-79 home win in Game 3 of their series against the Miami Heat.
With their season essentially on the line – as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit – the 76ers were energized on the defensive end with the return of star Joel Embiid, who was wearing a protective mask to protect his fractured orbital bone.
It was the first time since January 2018 that the 76ers have held an opposing team under 80 points, when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-78.
In an incredibly low-scoring first half, the 76ers reached half-time with a 41-34 lead as James Harden carried the early offensive load, before cooling off in the second half to finish on 17 points (four-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds and six assists.
Embiid was solid in his return, commanding plenty of defensive attention to open up lanes for his teammates and putting in 18 points (five-of-12 shooting, eight-of-10 free throws) with 11 rebounds.
The real star of the show for the home side was Danny Green, who hit seven of his first eight three-point attempts for his equal team-high 21 points, sharing that figure with Tyrese Maxey, who had all of his 21 points in the second half.
Jimmy Butler was the only Miami starter to get into double figures, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting, while Tyler Herro was a disappointing five-of-15 from the field for his 14 points.
Game 4 will remain in Philadelphia before heading back to Miami for Game 5.
Mavericks make it a series
The Dallas Mavericks injected some life into their series against the Phoenix Suns, taking Game 3 103-94 at home to trail 2-1.
In an inspired defensive showing, Dallas held the Suns to quarter totals of 20, 24, 23, and 27, slowing the game down to a crawling pace at times as both sides hunted for the exact looks they were after.
Both teams shot a respectable 44% from the field, while the Suns were more efficient from long range, shooting it at 46% compared to the Mavericks' 33%, but the hosts forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight.
While the Mavs were not at their best from deep, despite shooters Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combining for eight makes behind the arc, they compensated by dominating the interior, out-scoring the Suns 50-32 in the paint.
Luka Doncic was at his best with 26 points (11-of-25 shooting), adding 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was Jalen Brunson who lifted the Mavericks to the victory.
After scoring a combined 22 points from 32% shooting in Game 1 and Game 2, Brunson erupted for a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with five assists and four rebounds.
Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS