It was as if a whole new series opened Friday night.
The Miami Heat are now hoping that doesn’t continue to prove the case.
With Joel Embiid back for the Philadelphia 76ers and Kyle Lowry for the Miami Heat, the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series took a turn toward something gritter.
After romping to a 2-0 series lead, tension and questions have entered the equation for the Heat with a 99-79 loss at Wells Fargo Center.
Jimmy Butler proved up to the 76ers’ pushback, with 33 points, but found little in support, no teammate with more than 14 on a night the Heat shot .351 from the field and 7 of 30 on 3-pointers.
“At the end of the day, defensiverly, that’s what you hope to expect on the road,” Heat coach Erik Soelstra said. “Offensively, we were just very poor.”
This time the boards belonged to the 76ers, who offered the type of muscle coach Doc Rivers had implored in the series’ first two games, muscle Embiid provided in Game 3.
Embiid, who had missed the series’ first two games due to a concussion and orbital fracture, arrived masked and motivated, closing with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s a big impact,” Spoelstra said. “This is what you have to expect.”
Embiid was supported by 21 points from Danny Green, 21 from Tyrese Maxey and 17 from James Harden.
Beyond Butler, there was little of substance for the Heat, with Lowry scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting, after missing the previous two weeks due to a hamstring strain.
“I just don’t think we got to the necessary layers of our offense,” Spoelstra said.
So make it 2-1 Heat, with Game 4 at 8 pm Sunday back on the 76ers’ court, before shifting to what now is a required Game 5 Tuesday night at FTX Arena.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat trailed by four at the end of the first quarter and seven at halftime. But from 14 down earlier, they then tied it midway through the third quarter, before going into the fourth down 68-65.
The 76ers then scored the first seven points of the fourth to go up 75-65, moving into the bonus with 9:21 to play, after four early Heat fouls in the period.
Later, Green’s seventh 3-pointer pushed the 76ers to an 89-76 lead, effectively ending it. Green closed 7 of 9 from beyond the arc, part of the 76ers’ 16 of 33.
“He’s a great shooter,” Spoelstra said of Green. “He did get some good looks early. And that can always change the complexion of things for a shooter.”
2. Butler time: The Heat not only had a 13-0 run in the third quarter, but at one stage of the period Butler accounted for 13 consecutive Heat points, scoring 10 and assisting on a 3-pointer.
After an uneven start, Butler played in attack mode both on offense and on the glass, having settled for four 3-point attempts earlier (he then made his fifth attempt).
It was similar to his scoring binges in the first round against the Hawks, this time with 14 third-period points.
Butler’s effort pushed him past Goran Dragic for eighth place on the Heat’s all-time playoff scoring list, his night also including nine rebounds.
3. Rough start: The Heat opened 3 of 16 from the field, 1 of 6 on 3-pointers and 2 of 6 from the line, ending the opening period down 21-17.
Tyler Herro (3 of 5) was the lone Heat player to make more than one shot in the first quarter. It took until 7:46 remained in the second period for Victor Oladipo to join Herro as the only Heat players to make more than one shot.
The Heat trailed 41-34 at halftime, with the 34 points the fewest scored by the Heat in a playoff first half since 2010.
“We did not really work possessions,” Spoelstra said. “We had a lot of one-pass, zero-pass quick shots that kind of fed into their momentum.”
4. Both back at it: Embiid played the first 10:26, up to seven points and four rebounds at that stage.
The Heat were 3 of 11 from the field in the first half when Embiid was the primary defender. Then again, that wasn’t much worse than their overall .326 in the first half.
Lowry, by contrast, eased his way back in, the two weeks off his feet yet to have him up to speed.
In addition to going scoreless, he had four rebounds and three assists in his 25 minutes.
“You’ve not going to have perfect set-ups or a perfect ramp up or all that,” Spoelstra said. “But we need him. And he was able to get this game under his belt.”
5. New (old) norm: With Lowry back in the starting lineup, it led to a shakeup of the Heat bench rotation.
Gabe Vincent, who had started the previous four games in place of Lowry, entered for Lowry with 5:56 left in the opening period, with Herro also entering during the first Heat set of substitutions. Vincent proved as ineffective as Lowry, scoreless in his 14:55.
Dewayne Dedmon then followed, with Oladipo making it nine deep.
That left Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson out of the rotation. Robinson did not play, with Martin playing only the final 2:05.