The Sixers (0-2) hosted the New York Knicks (2-0) in Game 3 of their first round series on Thursday. Philadelphia wanted to avoid the historically insurmountable 0-3 series deficit. New York wanted to take a stranglehold 3-0 series lead. Joel Embiid went for a playoff career-high 50 points to power the Sixers to a critical 125-114 victory in Game 3.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Knicks were without the services of Julius Randle, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.

Tom Thibodeau started Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Sixers were without the services of Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

De'Anthony Melton, who has battled a lumbar spine injury for most of the season, was available to play.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.

Inside The Game

- Kudos to two guys not named Embiid and Maxey for showing up to offer some support in the first half of this game. If there was a singular factor you had to point to to explain why the Sixers were on the tails side of what had been a coin-flip series through Games 1 and 2, it would be the lack of production from the supporting cast.

Oubre deserves his credit for great defense on Brunson in the first two games of this series. But, after averaging 15 points per game in the regular season, he scored 14 total across the first two games of this series. The fan-favorite wing put up eight points in the first quarter. The Knicks fans were downright impressive in their vocal support on the road. They bellowed after Brunson laced a corner three to give the Knicks an early lead. Oubre responded quickly, though.

He found the edge of the Knicks' perimeter defense, attacking on a straight line for a dunk to answer Brunson's three. Oubre then canned a wing three of his own a short while later. He capped a strong run in the first quarter by picking up a loose ball and running it in for another dunk.

A Nurse adjustment to start the second quarter paid dividends, taking a bit of the burden off Embiid and Maxey. Buddy Hield missed two shots in short order during the first quarter. That was enough for Nurse, who did not include him in the lineup to open the second quarter.

Instead, it was Cam Payne in to begin the second quarter. And, man, did he deliver. He connected on a pair of triples on the left wing, invoking building-shaking cheers from the Philadelphia faithful and loosening up teammates who looked a bit tight as a physical first quarter wore on. His impact wasn't limited to scoring or shooting without conscience. After Payne's quick barrage of threes, he ran a pick-and-roll beautifully, making the pass to a plunging Embiid as Hartenstein was out of position. The rim pressure and eye for his partner in the two-man game set Hartenstein up for his third foul of the first half.

If the Sixers win this series, one of the factors on the Knicks' side will be what happened when Mitchell Robinson spelled Hartenstein after that third foul. Robinson appeared to tweak his ankle during that stint. It was significant enough to knock him out for the rest of the game. An excellent rebounder, the consistent play from New York's bigs - both in the starting lineup and off the bench - is part of why the Sixers lost the first two games of the series. If Robinson is compromised in a meaningful way, that's a critical development for the Knicks.

- If your backside was clenched and your back tight as the third quarter began, you surely weren't alone. The Knicks were physical and fast in the first half, giving Philadelphia all it could handle. Brunson broke out of the funk that had him shooting concert tour dates from the field in Games 1 and 2. It looked as though the Knicks had figured it all out just in time for the game the Sixers desperately needed to win to have a chance in this series.

Maxey said otherwise. He dissected the Knicks in the third quarter. It started with what he felt should've been a foul call on a layup. He roared at the nearest official, briefly making his way up the court before the ball was back in the Sixers' possession anyway. Embiid found him on the hit-ahead pass, setting Maxey up for a transition dunk. Non-call redeemed, I suppose. Maxey then stared Hartenstein in the face on an isolation on the left side of the floor before burying a deep three to extend Philadelphia's lead to five points.

Consider the fire started. Maxey was well on his way to dissecting the Knicks. The quick five points flowed into a barrage of passes from the star guard. He lined Embiid up for jumpers with a handful of pocket passes out of the two-man game, catalyzing a jump-shooting clinic for the big guy in the second half. Fresh off winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award for this season, one of the remaining opportunities for growth in Maxey's playmaking game is the pass out of drives to the weak-side corner. Yet, there he was, finding Lowry for a naked three in that spot.

- It was a bit of a rough take-off for Embiid in this game. His approach on offense was to attack anything and everything. Aggression is good. It has to be channelled in an intelligent manner or you can lose the plot - and the game - really quickly. Embiid almost stepped over the line in the first quarter, committing an unacceptable flagrant foul on Robinson by grabbing his legs from the ground as the Knicks big man went for a dunk.

He followed it up with another unintelligent - albeit, far less dangerous - play against Robinson. Embiid ran over the New York big on a drive in the second quarter, an easy offensive foul for his third strike of the first half. Nurse ultimately decided to leave him in the game, but it naturally made Embiid pick his spots more carefully on defense and put his coach in a bit of a pickle as he thought out how to maximize each minute left before halftime. This is one of the easiest schools of thought from which Embiid's critics pull. He dominates in the regular season because he plays with control and poise; he nearly threw it all out the window when his team's back was against the wall. Fortunately for his team and his narrative, Embiid's second half made up for his immaturity during the adversity of the first half.

It was a marksman's display of jump-shooting from the reigning league MVP during the game's final 24 minutes. Embiid didn't just go through the motions of his automatic midrange jumper. He got enough legs under the ball when he let fly from beyond the arc, lacing triples out of the pick-and-pop and off of swing passes out of other ball movement.

It was a barrage from three-point territory unlike any we've seen from Embiid in quite a few years. But, he didn't neglect his bread and butter in the midrange. He took what the action organically flowed into, stepping into foul line jumpers as well. When the big guy smelled blood in the water, he seemed willing to trust his knee. Embiid attacked individual defenders around the elbows and foul line, making it impossible for the officials to ignore the contact he was taking as he made his move.

50 points - a playoff career-high to avoid the dreaded 0-3 series deficit. With a case of Bell's palsy, as he revealed after the game, and an ailing knee.

Spare Thoughts

- The Sixers made it clear they wanted the officials to pay more attention to detail in the aftermath of the Game 2 loss. Well, it goes both ways. You can't commit obvious fouls and expect to get away with them.

On that topic, Embiid would be better served not complaining after every call he doesn't get. The constant whining doesn't make him any more likely to get the whistle the next time there's contact. It just makes him more annoying to officials.

- The Knicks have entered that category of teams that are convinced they've never fouled an offensive player ever. Hart let out an expletive-laden bellow to condemn a foul called against him, right after he issued a slap on the forearm heard round the gym.

- Nurse got away with one early in the fourth quarter. Taking Maxey out, while Embiid was also out, while the Sixers were slowly melting a double-digit lead certainly was not an advisable decision.

The Sixers (1-2) will host the Knicks (2-1) in Game 4 of this series on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on ABC.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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