“He’s Not Washed. He’s A Different Player” | By Doing Less, James Harden Proves His Dedication To Philly’s NBA Title Hopes

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia 76ers have defended home court with the Game 4 win over the Miami Heat. After trailing 0-2 in the first couple games of the series, the Embiid-less Sixers looked lost and hopeless.

But after Embiid returned in Game 3 and led the Sixers to two consecutive wins, there is a newfound hope for Philly at a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. With James Harden’s 31-point masterpiece in Game 4, the Sixers are firing on all cylinders, and they seem to be playing some of their best basketball entering tonight’s Game 5. 

“It looks like a fire has been light under him,” said ESPN’s Mike Greenberg.” 

A huge part of the Sixers’ success is their newfound chemistry with star James Harden, whom they acquired at the trade deadline this season. Though he hasn’t been the high-volume scoring machine that he once was in Houston, he is showing his new skill as a primary facilitator, and a second or third scoring option behind Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Harden hasn’t been the most proficient player since coming over to Philly, and he has a reputation of spitting the bit in the huge playoff moments. But following his Game 4 outburst, it’s clear that he is just willing to do whatever is needed of him at the moment. 

Sixteen of those 31 points came in the decisive fourth quarter. Every shot was a dagger.

 

The Beard is averaging 20 points per game, nine assists and six rebounds per game on 40 percent shooting from the field, and 36.5 percent from three in these playoffs.

In this series against Miami, he’s averaging 14 points, six assists per game, and seven rebounds. Those stats are counting the two games that Philly didn’t have Embiid, where Harden failed to give fans the offensive output they wanted. Clearly, the Harden that was once an unstoppable scoring superstar isn’t there anymore, but to call him washed up is a stretch. 

“I heard the word washed. He’s not washed. Hes a different player,” said ESPN’s JJ Redick. 

Everyone in Philly knew they weren’t getting Houston’s Harden, as he was the third option in Brooklyn but the primary facilitator there behind two primary scoring stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Nothing has changed in Philly, except this is the perfect position for James Harden to pick and choose his spots.

After the Ben Simmons debacle, Philly was in need of a new facilitator and a guard who could orchestrate the offense. That came in the blockbuster trade for Harden, who they immediately plugged into the much-needed role. The Harden-Embiid duo got off to a hot start, hit some rough patches, had some communication glitches. Now, everything seems to be coming together at the perfect time in the second round of the playoffs.

The Sixers and Heat are deadlocked in a battle at 2-2 in the series. Both teams have yet to surrender homecourt, but something’s gotta give (unless Miami wins in seven, taking all games at home).

Since Embiid’s return, Philly seems to have found their stride, winning two in a row going into Miami. It seems this team has not only found their rhythm but are starting to get in sync with each other. Their trust for one another is apparent, and it’s translated to their play on the court.

“Since he’s gotten here, he’s been adjusting based on what we need from him,” Embiid said of Harden after his 31-point performance that helped even the series. “Whether it’s playmaking or tonight — just going and getting a bucket based on how they were guarding everyone else. Making tough shots. He’s been doing that his whole career.”

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Developing Chemistry Is The Key 

This team now understands that they’re all talented players, more than qualified to play the highest level of basketball, and they trust in one another’s decisions on the court. Just observe the way Philly seamlessly moves the ball around the court, and how anyone who steps on the court has the green light to shoot. 

In Sunday’s win over Miami, six Sixers scored in double digits — even Matisse Thybulle (31.3% 3pt-field goal) got in on the action, hitting a three pointer during the game. Harden set the tone followed by Embiid’s 24, and Maxey’s 18. Everybody ate. 

Philly is on a roll and has found new life with the return of Joel Embiid, but it seems that the new edition of Harden and his facilitating and orchestration of the offense has them playing great basketball.

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