2022 Playoffs: East Semifinal | Heat (1) vs. 76ers (4)

Sixers’ Joel Embiid returns, scores 18 points in Game 3 victory

Philadelphia's star center sees his 1st action of the series, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds to help the 76ers trim their deficit to 2-1.

Playing his 1st game of the series, Joel Embiid finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes.

• 76ers vs. Heat: Complete series coverage

Joel Embiid inspired the Philadelphia 76ers with his return from a facial injury, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey each scored 21 points and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 99-79 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday night.

Wearing a black mask, Embiid had 18 points and 11 rebounds after missing the first two games of the series.

Embiid sat out the first two games with a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion suffered in the last round. Embiid wasn’t the dominant force he was throughout the season. With Green, Maxey and James Harden all crushing Heat rallies with big buckets, Embiid didn’t have to carry the Sixers.

But the 76ers sure were glad he was back.

“Any plan where you can have Joel as part of the plan is a much better plan,” coach Doc Rivers said before the game.

Embiid’s status was upgraded from out to doubtful leading into the game, and Philly was buzzing the big man would play. When he jogged out for warmups wearing the mask, Sixers fans erupted and started the “MVP! MVP!” chants that are a staple at the arena. When Sixers public address announcer Matt Cord announced “there are no injuries” on the pregame report, Sixers fans went wild. Embiid easily heard the loudest ovation during lineup introductions and the Sixers were energized by his presence. It was hard to tell at times Embiid had missed so much time.

“Because of the concussion stuff, he couldn’t do anything,” Rivers said. “So he’s not been able to run and doing other stuff that all of us great athletes would be doing.”

Embiid is still playing with a right thumb ligament injury that will require offseason surgery. Embiid — who led the 76ers with 30.6 points and 11.7 rebounds this season — impacted Game 3 just by his presence.

Miami All-Star center Bam Adebayo, who scored 24 points in Game 1 and 23 in Game 2, was held to just five in the first half.

”I was really (angry) watching another big man play well against my team,” Embiid said.

Embiid led the 76ers with averages of 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during the regular season. He also averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the six games against Toronto in the first round.

Embiid is one of three finalists for MVP, along with Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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