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Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the 76ers, who won for the 18th time in their last 19 games and reclaimed home-court advantage.

Embiid was right back in form.

Embiid's playoff debut was a smashing success for Philadelphia. The big man finished his National Basketball Association playoff debut with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks on the night with 10 of his points coming from free throws.

Embiid returned for Game 3 but that didn't lead to more playing time for Whiteside.

"Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks".

Rightly so, too. Embiid started the day doubtful, ended it dominant, and had plenty of help as well. Winslow posted an impressive double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks in Game 3.

To protect his injured face, Embiid wore an unusual layer composed of a mask and goggles. I kind of shut him up a little bit because he was talking big time when he did block me.

Thursday began with the 76ers saying Embiid, out since March 28 with a broken orbital bone and concussion, wasn't likely to play. The Sixers were far better when Simmons played without Embiid than when Embiid played without Simmons (an inversion from their regular-season pattern) but they were at their best, by far, when the two played together, posting a 135 offensive rating and 33.7 net rating in 24 minutes. It's definitely a different look when you have an All-Star back in the lineup.

"It changes things, for sure", he said. Embiid needed three masks to get through this game with Justise Winslow stepping on one, and a second one breaking after he was fouled on the baseline.

Game 4 will tip off in Miami at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. Philadelphia escaped the third frame with a 96-94 lead, despite Dragic netting 11 points in the quarter.

Meanwhile, Miami couldn't find any sort of stride. Whiteside finished with only one field-goal attempt in Game 3, an alley-oop lob from Dwyane Wade that got turned into a dunk in the fourth quarter, seconds before Whiteside was taken out of the game for good.

The physical game featured 6 technical fouls. Miami got within four to end the opening quarter, and by then the physicality was already amped-up on both ends.

Nevertheless, Sixers Coach Brett Brown said before Thursday's contest that Embiid would not be on a minutes limit in his first game back, but that the center's level of conditioning could be a factor.

The volume was high early with the crowd revved up for the first playoff game in New Orleans since 2015 - and eager to see if the Pelicans could push Portland to the brink of elimination.

While Saric might now be making his first foray into NBA post-season basketball, he is by no means a stranger to high-stakes hoops.