Joel Embiid helps the 76ers take a series lead against the Heat

Klay Thompson

He had five points and two rebounds in only 13 minutes of play.

Joel Embiid made his return tonight and the Miami Heat were not ready. And there's no reason to expect him to slow down now, especially with how motivated he appears to be.

Embiid's playoff debut was a smashing success for Philadelphia.

"I feel like I'm one of the most physical players in the league - I love contact, I love attacking, I love going to the free throw line", Embiid said Friday after scoring 23 points in the Sixers' Game 3 win over the Miami Heat a night earlier. The game three breakdown is more enjoyable than game two.

Asked if he would be coaching on Sunday Messina said, "We don't know, we will talk, we will see".

"It hurts", Embiid said, drawing laughs from reporters.

Playing a part in four National Basketball Association championship runs as a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach helps him predict how the contest at AmericanAirlines Arena is going to be played. "I had to work through it, and I did".

Thursday began with the 76ers saying Embiid wasn't likely to play. TNT reported that the issue for Embiid was the goggles fogging up, and Philadelphia's staff inspected the mask while Embiid was out of the game. "It's playoffs", Brown said of Winslow. "It changes things, for sure".

Simmons had 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Embiid, playing his first game after sitting out the past 10 with a face fracture and concussion, had 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Game four of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday afternoon at 2:30 in Miami. He missed his first five shots from the floor and then made five of his next six, including three 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Miami couldn't find any sort of stride.

In the third, he hit a big 3-pointer, celebrating by swinging one arm around in the air a la Pete Townshend of the Who. Portland got within 11 during the second quarter, but the Pelicans took a 19-point advantage into the half, 64-45. The 76ers outscored Miami 74-43 in the second half of Game 1, and 65-44 in the second half on Thursday.

Luckily, Embiid was cleared to play in Game 3 in Miami on Thursday. Probably just two or three will do.

Philly seemed intent on erring on the side of caution when it came to the long-term health and well-being of a rising star in whom they invested a multi-year maximum-salaried contract before the start of the season. The 76ers won an incredible 16 games in a row to end the regular season and dominated their series opener against the Heat by 27 points.

With the win, Philadelphia takes a 2-1 series lead.

And if last night is what he's capable of at less than 100 percent, in enemy territory, with an awkward piece of poly-carbonate disguise shielding his face, that doesn't bode well for the Heat.

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