Sixers center Joel Embiid returned to the starting lineup after missing 10 games but the highly anticipated matchup against Hassan Whiteside turned out to be a one-sided affair, with Whiteside continuing to struggle mightily and Embiid starting slowly — missing his first five shots — but finishing with 23 points to lead Philadelphia and take a 2-1 series lead.
The game went back and forth for the first three quarters but in a repeat performance from Game 1, the Heat imploded in the fourth quarter and quickly fell behind by double digits early in the quarter and never caught up. Miami only scored 14 points in the final 12 minutes fo the game as they searched for answers against wave after wave of baskets from the Sixers.
Unlike Game 2 in which Philly struggled from long range, there would be no stopping Marco Belinelli, Dario Saric and even Embiid this time around. The Heat allowing their opponent to shoot better than 50 percent overall as well as from beyond the arc is a recipe for disaster and 76ers’ depth was unsurmountable. All five starters finished in double digits, including 21 points from Belinelli off the bench.
Aside from Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, who scored all 19 points of his points in a spectacular first half showing, there was precious little left from the rest of the team. Whiteside again was limited by foul trouble and whatever else seems to mysteriously be affecting him mentally during this series, only ended up playing 13 minutes and finished with five points, converting his solo attempt from the field off a lob from Dwyane Wade, who also struggled with 2-10 FG shooting and four turnovers. Josh Richardson had his moments on both ends of the court, but it wasn’t nearly enough to counter the 76ers attack. Wayne Ellington also was a non-factor, going just 1-5 from beyond the arc. Add it all up and it was never going to be enough firepower to win a playoff game, much less against this impressive opponent.
Miami will continue to search for answers but it’s clear that if their defense can’t withstand Philadelphia’s numerous shooters and their offense can’t keep up then it may not be as long a series as was originally anticipated.
The Heat will try to even the series at home on Saturday at 2:30pm.