Be afraid, Miami, be very afraid. After falling into an 0-2 hole in Miami, Joel Embiid — the Phantom of the Process — emerged from the dark dungeon of orbital fracture care and concussion protocol to lead the Sixers victory.
The Sixers looked exhausted at the end of Games 1 and 2. Miami and their “Heat Culture” had outhustled the Sixers leaving them gasping for air. With should-be MVP Embiid doubtful for the series, things looked bleak for the good guys. But news of Embiid’s availability before Game 3 bounced around like a pogo stick on the trampoline of Sixers’ Twitter, and he was eventually cleared to play.
The Sixers have the firepower with Joel Embiid to beat the Heat
Embiid slows the game down. He draws fouls, letting players get an extra minute of rest between spurts of action. And when he has the ball, he slows the pace with methodical precision, forcing Miami to hustle and send double teams at him. Meanwhile, the rest of the Sixers can camp out on the 3-point line heating up s’mores, waiting for an open shot. Embiid’s return alleviates the fitness imbalance between the two teams.
Embiid also dramatically improves the Sixers’ defense. In Game 3 we held Miami to 79 points! In the modern NBA! Unheard of. And if it were not for all the second looks Miami got from offensive rebounds, the Sixers might have held them to low 60s. Every possession looked like a struggle for Miami and they had few open looks. Embiid cleans up so many of the Sixers’ defensive issues.
But the Sixers still have glaring weaknesses they need to address. Miami outhustles them to every rebound and loose ball. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds in Game 3, which led to some of Miami’s best looks at the basket. Please just put a body on the Miami players to stop these offensive boards. Giving Miami so many extra possessions is just not sustainable over a seven-game series.
It also cannot be ignored that the Sixers shot incredibly well from 3-point range after being abysmal in Games 1 and 2. Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey combined for a gaudy 12-of-15 from deep. Certainly Embiid’s presence created many open looks for other players, but Green and Maxey’s crazy shooting percentage made the score look more imbalanced than the game actually was. The Sixers cannot count on that performance every night.
If the Sixers keep this momentum going with a convincing win in Game 4, the series will go back to Miami with the Heat knowing they were only able to win the games Embiid did not play. It will be hard for them to feel good about that.
It’s on, Miami.