Health concerns overshadow playoffs for 76ers, Clippers, Bucks, Suns

The Philadelphia 76ers eked out a victory in Game 3 of their playoff series against the New York Knicks on Friday, but it came at a cost. Joel Embiid scored 50 points, but he played with a bulky brace on his surgically repaired left knee and revealed after the game that he is dealing with lingering symptoms of Bell's palsy, a form of facial paralysis. The Los Angeles Clippers also fell behind 2-1 in their series against the Dallas Mavericks after losing Game 3, and star Kawhi Leonard acknowledged that his balky right knee didn't respond well coming out of Game 2. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks trail 2-1 in their series against the Indiana Pacers and are still waiting for the debut of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is recovering from a left calf strain. And on Saturday, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard aggravated an Achilles tendon injury after earlier dealing with a knee issue in a Game 3 loss in overtime to the Pacers.

Here's a look at where each series stands heading into Game 4:

Knicks at 76ers: New York leads 2-1. Game 4, 1 p.m. EDT, ABC -- Need to know: The 76ers got the Game 3 victory they needed to give themselves a shot at winning the series. The 76ers are home, where they won a play-in tournament game against Miami and then beat the Knicks. Philadelphia scored 43 points in the third quarter, the most it has posted in a playoff quarter since a franchise-record 51 in the third against Brooklyn in 2019. Keep an eye on: Embiid was 13 of 19 from the floor, made 19 of 21 free throws, and hit five 3-pointers in the Game 3 victory. Embiid, who scored a franchise-best 70 points against San Antonio in January, became the first player in NBA history to score 50 points on fewer than 20 shots in a playoff game. Injury watch: Again, Embiid. He has one good eye, one good leg, and one transcendent postseason performance. Embiid says the Bell's palsy has affected him since before the play-in tournament, and he doesn't have a timetable on a complete recovery.

Mavericks at Clippers: Dallas leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC -- Need to know: Dallas is winning with defense, having held the Clippers under 100 points in consecutive victories. The Mavs kept the opponent under triple digits in back-to-back games just once in the regular season. Luka Doncic's 22 points in Game 3 were the fewest in the superstar's 14 playoff victories with Dallas. Keep an eye on: Leonard's knee didn't respond well after two full days off. Now the 32-year-old has to come back on shorter rest. Leonard said, "Frustrating that it happened to me this late in the season," and added he intended to play Sunday. Injury watch: Dallas is likely to be without G Tim Hardaway Jr. again because of a sprained ankle. Daniel Gafford had a strong showing to boost the Dallas defense but has a lingering back issue. Pressure is on: With Leonard clearly hampered by the knee injury, Paul George will have to be much better than he was in Game 3. He was saddled with foul trouble when the Mavericks retook control of the game late in the third quarter and ended up with just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting.

Pacers at Bucks: Indiana leads 2-1. Game 4, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT -- Need to know: Indiana has won six of the eight meetings against Milwaukee this season and has done it, in part, by flipping the script. The NBA's third-worst rebounding team during the regular season has outrebounded Milwaukee in seven straight contests, with its per-game average jumping from 41.5 to 48.3 in the playoffs. Keep an eye on: Milwaukee's midseason acquisition of G Patrick Beverley could prove especially valuable with all the injury issues. The 35-year-old averaged 2.6 assists and 0.6 turnovers after joining the Bucks and could be asked to shoulder a heavier burden. Injury watch: Playing without Antetokounmpo and Lillard would be new for the Bucks. The only such instance in the regular season was a 125-107 loss at Oklahoma City in the second-to-last game. Pressure is on: After his playoff career high, Middleton may have to do even more to avoid the Bucks being on the brink of a third consecutive postseason disappointment after winning the 2021 title.

Timberwolves at Suns: Minnesota leads 3-0. Game 4, 9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT -- Need to know: Anthony Edwards scored 36 points in a 126-109 victory as the Wolves dominated a third straight game in what's become a lopsided series. The Suns had title hopes with the All-Star trio of Durant, Booker, and Bradley Beal, but the club's three-year run of winning at least one series is in jeopardy. Keep an eye on: Wolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter of Game 3, helping turn a tight game into another blowout. He's averaging more than 14 points per game off the bench, six more than in the regular season. Injury watch: Suns guard Grayson Allen missed Game 3 after spraining his right ankle in the series opener and aggravating the injury in Game 2. Phoenix has missed the NBA leader in 3-point shooting percentage from the regular season. There is hope Allen will be available Sunday. Pressure is on: Suns coach Frank Vogel. The veteran coach might be one-and-done with the franchise after being hand-picked by owner Mat Ishiba and general manager James Jones. Vogel has struggled to win with this top-heavy roster, and the Suns might be looking for a different voice again.

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