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NBA playoffs: Sixers bounce back with Game 3 win in Joel Embiid's return

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It appears having Joel Embiid back can really help a team.

Behind the return of their MVP-candidate center, the Philadelphia 76ers won Game 3 of their second-round series against the Miami Heat 99-79. The win cuts the Heat's series lead to 2-1, setting up a pivotal Game 4 on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Embiid had missed the first two games of the series after sustaining an orbital fracture and concussion in the final game of the Sixers' first-round series against the Toronto Raptors. He was cleared from the NBA's concussion protocol early Friday, then took the floor with a black mask to protect his fractured face.

It had been a tough week for Embiid, as he told ESPN after the game:

"I can't even explain. I had a lot of concussion symptoms. Anything you can imagine, but I'm just glad I'm back and I can help these guys."

The big man finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes, second most on the team. Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey tied for the Sixers lead in scoring with 21 points each, Green on 7-of-9 shooting, all from deep, and Maxey on 7-of-11 shooting.

After two games of Heat domination, the Sixers defense clamped down a side that was returning an All-Star of its own in Kyle Lowry, who went scoreless in 25 minutes after dealing with a hamstring strain. The Sixers held the Heat to 27-of-77 shooting from the field (35.1%).

It was almost a wire-to-wire win for Philadelphia, which never trailed after the game's first four minutes. The Heat managed to tie the game in the third quarter after trailing by double digits, but the Sixers responded with a barrage of timely 3-pointers to put the game away.

The Sixers' most concerning moment came late in the fourth quarter, when Embiid took a clearly painful shot to his fractured face from Heat center Bam Adebayo.

Embiid stayed in the game for less than a minute after that, as Sixers fans started celebrating a win in a series that was looking dangerously close to a potential sweep.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 06: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat fouls Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half during Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid returned for Game 3 with a mask. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)