James Harden looked a lot like James Harden

It’s one sport.

That’s what maximum Sixers fanatics will inform themselves after a tough opening evening in Boston Tuesday.

And it’s especially true. Joel Embiid struggled and can most probably nonetheless want time to get into complete sport form. There’s no doubt he’ll glance extra like his MVP-caliber self. With such a lot of new items, the protection blew assignments and had miscommunications, whilst the offense was once stagnant and plagued via turnovers. Given the NBA monitor report of the Sixers’ newbies, it feels like the ones issues will recuperate as smartly.

But you don’t have to appear too some distance for the largest certain of the night: James Harden. With Embiid coping with early foul hassle and double groups, it was once Harden who stored the Sixers within the sport. The contest was once tied at 63 at halftime largely due to Harden’s 22-point part.

“He had great rhythm,” Doc Rivers advised newshounds postgame in Boston (according to Noah Levick of NBCSP). “He saved us. Joel picks up those two fouls and we had to take him out. Our (planned) rotation was taking James out first but again, you have these rotations set and then that happens. So we had to go away from that, keep James. … I was like, ’No, you have to stay on.’ And I thought that stretch saved the game. It kept us in the game. He got going, which is great for us. Really happy for him.”

The Beard was once very good-to-brilliant. The numbers glance mighty spectacular — 35 issues (his best possible overall as a Sixer), 9 of 14 (5 of 9 from 3), 8 rebounds and 7 assists — however it was once how Harden accrued that stat line that’s the maximum promising takeaway for the Sixers.

Harden looked like he had his legs beneath him for the primary time since struggling a Grade 2 hamstring pressure whilst nonetheless in Brooklyn. He perceived to have the entire torque wanted on his patented step-back 3, drawing fouls on Al Horford and Grant Williams and victimizing either one of them a couple of instances on switches. It was once a welcomed sight after that shot gave the impression to fail him so steadily after he arrived in Philly.

But it was once Harden’s total shot profile that was once arguably probably the most encouraging factor. In addition to the three-point and unfastened throw barrage, Harden nailed a midrange pull-up, dusted off his trusty floater and had the important burst to get via defenders and explosiveness to complete on the rim.

In reality, you’ll want to argue he handed up a few alternatives within the paint that he would possibly’ve been in a position to attain on, most likely being a bit too selfless.

“I feel pretty solid,” Harden advised newshounds. “We’ve got a long journey, long way to go, but it’s not about me individually. I know what I’m capable of. It’s about doing the right things to try to help this team win. For us, we feel like we had stretches where we were playing very, very well, and then times where we allowed them too many easy points. Especially on the road, it’s going to be difficult to recover. Learning lesson. Watch the film, get better, be ready to go Thursday.”

All this in opposition to the stingiest protection within the NBA remaining season and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart.

It doesn’t get any more uncomplicated for Harden and the Sixers after they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the town on Thursday evening of their house opener. Harden will cross from going through Smart and Boston’s super assist and off-ball protection to some other one of the most highest perimeter defenders within the sport in Jrue Holiday and arguably the most efficient “free safety” within the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With that stated, Harden had his best efficiency as a Sixer remaining season in opposition to Milwaukee. He posted 32 issues and 9 assists, combining with Embiid for a dominant offensive efficiency in overdue March. The Sixers had been a disastrous Paul Millsap run (take into account when that was once a factor?) clear of a large win over the Bucks.

Harden’s partnership with Embiid remains to be creating, however we noticed glimpses of ways deadly that duo can also be within the pick-and-roll. In addition to the toughness and protection any person like P.J. Tucker goes so as to add, that familiarity with Harden could also be rather helpful. You see how their two-man sport, with Tucker’s skill at the brief roll, can open up the Sixers’ offense.

While those movements have looked just about unstoppable now and then, the Bucks may have solutions every so often. It’s essential for Harden and Embiid — and in point of fact the offense as a complete — to have efficient counters.

“We’ve just got to keep playing off of each other,” Embiid advised newshounds. “We’ve just got to have multiple actions. I thought at times they defended that pick-and-roll pretty well. But then again, what’s next? The ball can’t stick. In those situations, we’ve just got to keep moving the ball, going to the second action. It just doesn’t stop at the pick-and-roll. Even if they stop it, we have a second and third action, whether it’s playing with him and myself, changing sides and all that. There’s so much we can do out of that, but we just can’t let the ball stick.”

It’s only one sport, however the Sixers need to really feel rattling nice in regards to the model of James Harden they noticed. Did he glance like “Houston Harden,” the man that took house an MVP and had one of the vital maximum prolific offensive seasons in NBA historical past? Not rather, however the group doesn’t want him to be that.

We’ll see what he has in retailer for an encore Thursday — and if it might probably remaining all the common season and past.

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