December 9, 2023

The James Harden Rollercoaster — Sixers Tie Up the Series


Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden (1) reacts past Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Despite an almost disastrous collapse, the Sixers have tied the series 2-2.

While there are some major concerns to take away from this game, heading back to heavily favored Boston tied 2-2 is a win.

The James Harden Rollercoaster

At this point, it seems impossible to know which version of James Harden will show up at any given time. The version the Sixers got tonight is a player that can take this team a long way. Harden finished with 42 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals, including the game-winning three. Harden was aggressive from tip-off getting into the lane, which led to more open shots from the permitter. If the Sixers are going to get where they want they are going to need aggressive Harden throughout the rest of the playoffs. He does not need to score 40 points a game, but he needs to be able to attack the lane to get himself, and other players involved.

The reason the Sixers won this game was because of James Harden’s play down the stretch, and in overtime. While he hit the game-winning three, he was also dominant down the stretch of the 4th quarter and made the game-tying basket.

Harden had an underrated defensive game as well. While he will always be a prime target for a team to attack the switch, coming up with 4 steals and 1 block was huge.

While Harden was incredible tonight, it is hard to know which version of him will show up in game 5. If you go by the trends of this series, he will struggle over the next two and then have a good game in a potential game 7. I think that this series and season will come down to how many more “vintage” performances he has left in him. The other players, besides Embiid, have struggled to score this series, and Harden may be the only hope. There can be no more poor performances if the Sixers are going to advance.

Embiid’s 4th Quarter Struggles

One of the major takeaways from this game is how poor Embiid was down the stretch. He had a lot of one on one matchups with Al Horfard, and Horfard had the better of him in just about every matchup. Luckily for the Sixers Harden carried the offensive weight in the 4th, and bailed out Embiid. While Embiid is probably tired after his long layoff and injury, he can not struggle that badly in the 4th. To his credit, he played much better in overtime, including assisting on Harden’s game-winning three.

For 3 quarters tonight, Embiid was his usual MVP self. He finished with 34 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists. Embiid did a great job early in the game by getting to the foul line and taking advantage of mismatches. Embiid has developed so much as a passer that at points it can be harmful for the defense to double-team him in the low post. He has been very good since coming back, and if this is the Embiid we are getting for the rest of the series, they have a real shot.

3 Game Series

With the series being tied 2-2 it is now a 3-game series. Unfortunately for the Sixers two of the three games are in Boston. The Sixers have shown that they can win in Boston, and they are going to have to do it to advance. If the Sixers can win game 5, they would have a chance for a closeout game on their home court in game 6. Hopefully, the Sixers can take the momentum from this game and carry it into a win at the Garden.

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