Heading into Game 3, the big story of the Sixers-Heat first-round series was Joel Embiid's surprise return from a 10-game absence. He was in foul trouble throughout, finished with only five points and was largely a nonfactor in his team's 128-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.
Miami's Justice Winslow led all scorers with 19 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first half, all field goals coming from beyond the arc. In the second half of Game 3, Brown went with T.J. McConnell as his backup point guard, a switch he also made in Game 2 after Fultz struggled on the defensive end of the court. The 36-year-old shot 2-of-10 and finished with eight points, five assists, two rebounds, one steal, one block, and four turnovers in 25 minutes.
Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists and was a flawless 7 for 7 from the free-throw line.
That is when Whiteside finally got his first shot and basket of the night, dunking off a Wade alley-oop pass to help draw the Heat within 105-99.
On the season, the Heat are averaging 103.4 points, 43.5 rebounds and 22.7 assists per game.
The Heat trail the series 2-1, with Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
Among those in the sold-out crowd were former Heat point guards Mario Chalmers and Jason Williams, the starters on Miami's three National Basketball Association championship teams.
They had enough fire, Justise Winslow chasing down Joel Embiid for a blocked shot, Goran Dragic flexing amid his third-quarter scoring outburst.
Masked (and goggled) up and ready for action after nearly a month away from the game, the Sixers emotional leader turned in a performance that was vintage Embiid and reminded fans, and foes across the league just how scary this team can be when at full strength.
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. He played with a black face mask.
The Sixers - Embiid, especially - have carried themselves with a bravado and confidence thie season.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a team-best 19 points for the Spurs, who played without head coach Gregg Popovich one day after the death of his wife, Erin, following a long illness. "I'm just trying to play simple". "We want to be next to Pop, we want to support him, but we've got to go out there and compete today". Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks.
Game four will be in Miami on Sunday morning.
That part of the streak has been the latest impressive aspect of the Sixers' rapid development this season, giving them pause about putting Embiid back out there before he's completely ready to play.