NBA·Recap

Embiid sparks 76ers' comeback win over Heat in return to lineup

A masked Joel Embiid scored 23 points in his post-season debut, Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric each added 21 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 128-108 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Warriors, Pelicans take 3-0 stranglehold series leads

Joel Embiid, centre, scores 23 points in his return to the lineup as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 128-108 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 series lead. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

Joel Embiid had trouble with his new mask.

It didn't slow him down.

Embiid's playoff debut was a smashing success for Philadelphia. The all-star centre returned from a 10-game absence by scoring 23 points, including a personal 7-0 run down the stretch that iced matters, and the 76ers reclaimed control of their Eastern Conference first-round series by topping the Miami Heat 128-108 on Thursday night.

The 76ers outscored the Heat 32-14 in the fourth quarter, and took a 2-1 lead in the series.

"I am just so proud of what he did," 76ers coach Brett Brown said.

Rightly so, too. Embiid started the day doubtful, ended it dominant, and had plenty of help as well. Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric each scored 21 for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

"It was annoying," Embiid said of getting used to the mask. "But that was the only way I could play in this game, if I wore the mask and protected my face with goggles. I had to work through it and I did."

Embiid plays with mask

Thursday began with the 76ers saying Embiid wasn't likely to play. His status was upgraded to probable in the afternoon and then he finally was inserted into the starting lineup — medical clearance coming from the team, mask clearance coming from the NBA after the league signed off on the dark, translucent, carbon-fiber, goggled apparatus that was made in consultation with independent experts.

The mask came off a couple times, the goggles were askew at times as well — Heat forward Justise Winslow even stomping on them once for good measure, a play that Brown chalked up to the intensity of playoff basketball — but in the end Embiid found a way.

"It's definitely a different look when you have an all-star back in the lineup," Winslow said. "It changes things, for sure."

Goran Dragic scored 23 points for Miami, which got 19 from Winslow and 14 from Josh Richardson.

Embiid banked in a turnaround straightaway jumper — a fortuitous bounce — to put Philadelphia up nine late, then connected on a 3-pointer and added a pair of throws to start the spurt that put away the game.

Warriors take series stranglehold on Spurs

Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and the Golden State Warriors beat San Antonio 110-97 on Thursday night for a 3-0 series lead over the Spurs, who were still reeling from the death of Gregg Popovich's wife, Erin.

Golden State can close the first-round series with a win Sunday afternoon in San Antonio in Game 4.

The Spurs were playing a day after the death of Erin Popovich, who passed away after battling an undisclosed long-term illness. Erin and Gregg Popovich were married four decades and had two children and two grandchildren.

San Antonio did not air a video tribute or hold a moment of silence for Erin in an apparent attempt to make the game as routine as possible for its players, but that was impossible.

Coach Popovich was not in his customary position roaming the sidelines, choosing instead to be with his family. San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina coached the team in Popovich's place.

"We are all hurting," Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said after the morning shootaround. "We want to be next to Pop, we want to support him, but we've got to go out there and compete today. But, for sure, we are toiling. It's not an easy day to be here."

Ginobili and fellow veteran Tony Parker said it was tough to play basketball following Erin's passing, but the team's goal was to compete and play with the grit Popovich has always demanded of them.

Parker, who said Erin and Gregg were a mother and father to him when he entered the league as a 19-year-old, lived up to those wishes. Parker, who averaged 2.0 points in the first two games, finished with 16 points in 17 minutes.

LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 18 points.

The San Antonio Spurs played with heavy hearts a day after the death of head coach Gregg Popovich's wife, Erin. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The Spurs had an emotional start, but could not sustain it against the talented Warriors. The cheering was nearly constant as the Spurs scored the game's first six points before the Warriors began to settle in.

Durant and Klay Thompson shot down San Antonio's chances.

Thompson added 19 points, including 3-for-6 shooting on 3s.

Golden State closed the first half on a 20-9 run to eliminate a five-point deficit and take a 52-46 lead. Durant had 17 points in the first half to counter 10 points each from Gay and Parker.

The Warriors led by double figures despite opening 1 for 14 on three-pointers. Golden State finished 10 for 32 on threes.

Shaun Livingston added 16 points for Golden State, who had six players in double figures.

Mirotic's career night helps Pelicans seize control of series

Nikola Mirotic scored a career playoff-best 30 points to go with eight rebounds, three steals and a block, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Portland Trail Blazers 119-102 on Thursday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Anthony Davis had 28 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks for New Orleans, which can advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with one more victory.

Nikola Mirotic, right, scored 30 points while Anthony Davis added 28 as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 119-102 to take a 3-0 series lead. (Veronica Dominach/Associated Press)

The 6-foot-10 Mirotic, acquired in a mid-season trade after DeMarcus Cousins' season-ending Achilles tear, made 12 of 15 shots, scoring on everything from quick-release 3-pointers to cutting dunks and fast-break layups.

Damian Lillard scored 20 for Portland, but also missed nine of 14 shots. CJ McCollum scored 22 and Al-Farouq Aminu added 21, but Portland trailed by double digits for most of the first half and all of the second.

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