It wasn’t a perfect start to the 2022-23 season for the Philadelphia 76ers as they fell to the Boston Celtics 126-117. However, all hope was not lost. One of the most notable storylines heading into the season was the release of James Harden that would hit the ground running. That question was answered with flying colors as Harden delivered an outstanding performance and was a vital reason why the Sixers stayed competitive in the game.
In 37 minutes of play, Harden Scored 35 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He flashed the ability to create a breakup and have Marcus Smart and Jason Tatum fall to the ground with his evasive moves at separate points in the game. His efficiency took a notable leap forward as he tied 9 of his 14 attempts from the field and fired 5-9 on three three-point attempts. Harden also hit the free throw line 12 times and hit on each of those attempts.
What does this mean for the six:
The Sixers desperately needed a co-star to pair up with Joel Embiid and Harden shows signs of willingness to answer that call. While it’s only one game and there’s still a lot to work on, being able to manage the team and fill out the score sheet when the big guy isn’t on the floor is critical. Harden answered the call with the shot clock running out on several occasions throughout the match, in a way the Sixers desperately needed.
Growth in the two-man game between Harden and Embiid is still needed. The offense was overly dependent on the isolation ball and the Sixers didn’t mix in pickup and damage combos at nearly the rate that was expected. Harden and Embiid tend to look for their own shot attempts on their own which will be a story to watch as they move forward in the season.
For Harden specifically, there was a lot to like. There was quite a bit of hype from Harden’s offseason as he took his conditioning and fitness very seriously. This showed up in court where Harden was able to get fired in a way it wasn’t last year. He also showed promising signs with his pick to shoot and connected to a few mid-range jump shots that weren’t in his arsenal last year.
Harden was brilliant in the way he handled defense and chose when to go after his own shot and when to make his teammates. The former MVP remained in attacking position for most of the game, but also finished with seven assists. That number would have been much higher had some of the shots from his fallen teammates harden would have made.
Where was Joel Embiid?
While there were plenty of positives to dispense with from Harden’s play, the same couldn’t be said of Embiid. he is Ended with or with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists, but his play wasn’t nearly as strong as those numbers suggest. Embiid shot 9-18 from the field and called in only one of his six three-point attempts. He also flipped the ball six times and tied for Team Word -13 on his over/under rating. The huge man struggled to assert himself on the defensive side of the earth as well.
The MVP runner-up struggled with a Boston defense that put an admirable effort into keeping him off the paint. This forced Embiid out into the elbow or circumference where he attempted to create on his own. While there were some positive flashes in the second half, Embiid played a lot “Ball Champion” In general this was the cause of a number of his transformations.
It’s only one game and there’s still plenty of time for Embiid to make his move and sync up with Harden. He was also seen grabbing his knee at one point which is a major concern at the start of the season. Therese Maxi finished with 21 points, but he ran into a foul issue in the first half and didn’t find his stride until late. The Sixers have several corrections to be made before Thursday night’s game with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the level of play Harden has shown is a very positive thing to pull away from their opening night game.
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