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NBA playoffs: Joel Embiid, reportedly with a mild case of Bell’s palsy, scores 50 to lead 76ers past Knicks in Game 3

NBA playoffs: Joel Embiid, reportedly with a mild case of Bell's palsy, scores 50 to lead 76ers past Knicks in Game 3

Things got heated after Joel Embiid dragged Mitchell Robinson to the court on Thursday. (Bill Streicher/USA Today)

Joel Embiid, reportedly with a mild case of Bell's palsy, powered the Philadelphia 76ers to a much-needed win Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Embiid has been dealing with the condition since the play-in game against the Miami Heat on April 17. It is a condition characterized by a weakness in certain facial muscles due to nerve trauma.

Embiid told ESPN that the condition has been "pretty annoying" and is "unfortunate" but that he just has "to keep pushing."

Embiid dropped 50 points, which is a postseason career-high, while leading the 76ers to a 125-114 win over the New York Knicks in Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series on Thursday. That cut the Knicks' lead in the series to a single game after they won both contests at Madison Square Garden.

Embiid also barely escaped an early ejection after pulling Mitchell Robinson down to the court by his ankle.

The foul incident in question happened in the first quarter. With New York leading 18-15, Knicks forward OG Anunoby knocked Embiid to the floor while attacking the basket. He then passed the ball to Robinson, who was standing over Embiid under the basket.

As Robinson jumped for a dunk, Embiid grabbed his right ankle and pulled him to the court. Robinson lost control of the ball, and officials whistled Embiid for a foul.

Tempers flared, and Embiid and Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo got in each others' faces and exchanged words. Players were separated, and officials then called for a replay review, the third of a fiery first quarter.

After review, officials ruled the contact unnecessary and upgraded the call to a flagrant 1. He avoided a flagrant 2, which would have resulted in his automatic ejection from the game.

Per the NBA, a flagrant is defined as "necessary contact committed by a player against an opponent."

A flagrant 2 is defined as "unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent."

Embiid's contact that dragged Robinson to the court from midair can certainly be construed as "unnecessary and excessive," but officials elected not to eject Philadelphia's All-NBA center.

Robinson appeared to avoid injury on the play and took the line for the flagrant free throws. A 40.9% free throw shooter, he missed both, and New York didn't score on its ensuing possession.

But he missed the second half and was seen in a walking boot after the game.

Officiating crew chief Zach Zarba explained the decision to assess a flagrant 1 instead of a flagrant 2 foul in a postgame pool report.

"In that situation, the crew gets together, we go and review the foul," Zarba said. "In this instance, the crew was unanimous along with the replay center official in Secaucus that this foul was unnecessary but did not rise to the level of a flagrant 2.

"The unnecessary contact rose to the level of a flagrant 1 but we were unanimous that this did not rise to the level of excessive contact, unnecessary and excessive, which would have been a flagrant 2 ejection. That’s why we kept it a flagrant 1."

Though the game was tight for much of the first half, the 76ers took off in the third quarter. Embiid had 18 of his 50 points in the period quarter, which sent the 76ers into the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead. He shot 7-of-8 from the field and hit four 3-pointers during that stretch, completely taking over the game. From there, Philadelphia simply rode its double-digit lead the rest of the way and held on to grab the 11-point win.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 39 points and 13 assists in the loss while shooting 13-of-27 from the field. Josh Hart finished with 20 points, and O.G. Anunoby added 17 points.

Embiid had eight rebounds and four assists to go with his 50 points in the win for Philadelphia. Tyrese Maxey added 25 points and seven assists, and Kelly Oubre finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Game 4 of the series is set for Sunday afternoon.

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