PHILADELPHIA -- Joel Embiid almost ended the Philadelphia 76ers' season on Thursday. Then he saved it.

In the first quarter of Game 3 of Philadelphia's first-round series against the New York Knicks, Embiid earned a flagrant foul for grabbing Mitchell Robinson's legs (from the floor) as the Knicks center went up for a layup. After a replay review, the officials determined it was a flagrant 1, meaning he would not be ejected. Down 2-0 in the series, Embiid played the remainder of the game as if he had seen the Sixers' collective life flash before his eyes.

In the third quarter alone, Embiid had 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting, including a 59-second second stretch in which he made a 3-pointer on three consecutive possessions. The Sixers outscored the Knicks 43-27 in that frame, with an offensive rating of 204.8. 

"He's catching and shooting, he's firing it with no hesitation," Sixers guard Kyle Lowry said. "He's playing the game on one leg right now, and he's manipulating the game to make sure he's helping us win basketball games. You just gotta tip your hat to a guy who's going out there and playing his butt off for us."

Embiid scored 33 points on 8-for-10 shooting in the second half and finished with 50 points, a career playoff high, on 13-for-19 shooting (5-for-7 from 3-point range, 19-for-21 from the line), in the 125-114 win. He got Isaiah Hartenstein and Robinson, the Knicks' starting and backup centers, in foul trouble, and, when third-string center Precious Achiuwa entered the picture in because of Robinson's sprained ankle, Embiid gave him the business, too.

For months, Embiid's health status has been hanging over Philadelphia's season. He had surgery to address a meniscus injury in his left knee in February, returned to the lineup in April and had an injury scare in the playoff opener. Although he put up huge numbers in both games in New York, he appeared to be laboring in crunch time. Making matters worse, Embiid has been dealing with Bell's palsy since before the series began. This time, with the Sixers' season effectively on the line, Embiid got better as the game went on.

"He's always a fighter for the group and wants to win and wants to contribute," Philadelphia forward Tobias Harris said. "I'm not in the man's body, so I don't really know what he's going through, but as anybody in this locker room would say, just excited and happy to have him out there with us."

Embiid said that, a day or two before the Sixers' Play-In game against the Miami Heat last week, he had "bad migraines," which turned out to be a symptom of Bell's palsy. "That's why. that Miami game, my body was just -- I was just not feeling it," he said.

"It's pretty annoying," Embiid said, "with my left side of my face, my mouth and my eye. It's been tough, but I'm not a quitter."

On the subject of his flagrant foul, Embiid said he was trying to make sure that Robinson didn't land on him, as he "kind of had some flashbacks" about Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga landing on his leg in late January. 

"It's unfortunate," Embiid said. "I didn't mean to hurt anybody. In those situations, I gotta protect myself because I've been in way too many situations where I'm the recipient of the bad end of it."

Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo called the foul "dirty" and wing Josh Hart said it was "something that can put a guy out for a significant amount of time, so we're lucky [Robinson] didn't get seriously hurt."

Embiid said that he "got lucky" in the third quarter and "made a few shots." He emphasized, however, that he can't rely on making 3s moving forward and must "keep pushing myself to put myself in better positions to succeed."

On one set play in the first quarter, Embiid, was stationed in the left corner, then came off a down screen from Lowry, caught a pass from Kelly Oubre Jr. in the paint and got himself an easy layup. This action was "tough to guard," Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse said, back when the Cleveland Cavaliers ran it for Kevin Love and Channing Frye.

Embiid's many other buckets -- and trips to the free throw line -- came on his usual assortment of post-ups, isolations, rolls to the rim and pops to the perimeter.

"The first conversation that I had with Coach Nurse when he got in, the word was unpredictability," Embiid said. "Just being unpredictable and just putting me all over the floor: Handle, corner, top of the key, paint, posting up. So, yeah, we're just trying to be unpredictable as much as we can, and that's how I love to play."

He may or may not be banned from the Empire State Building now, but Embiid's performance immediately entered the pantheon in Philadelphia. It was the fifth time a Sixer has scored 50 points in a playoff game; Allen Iverson, seated front row on the baseline at Wells Fargo Center, did it three times, and Billy Cunningham did it once.

The Sixers needed a superhuman performance from their franchise player. After holding Knicks star Jalen Brunson in check at Madison Square Garden, the All-Star guard erupted for 39 points on 13-for-27 shooting. New York scored 123.9 points per 100 possessions, made 43.3% of its 3-point attempts -- Hart made four 3s for the third consecutive game -- and took care of the ball, but had no answer whatsoever for Embiid on the other end. 

"I just love playing the game," Embiid said. "I just want to be on the floor as much as possible. I want to play as much as possible. I only got about maybe eight years left, so I gotta enjoy it as much as possible."