The Philadelphia 76ers put an end to the Toronto Raptors season in Toronto on Thursday night. After losing back to back games in games 4 & 5, the Sixers are officially advancing to play the Miami heat in the second round. There were many positives in this series including Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Danny Green. The one name that isn’t on this list that may surprise you is James Harden.
It’s no secret that James Harden’s play has been very underwhelming since coming to Philly after the All-Star break. There have been a few games that James Harden played very well in, but a large sum of those games came in the beginning of his time with Philadelphia. Many fans were hoping that this would change as we went into the playoffs but we were sadly mistaken. Harden’s absence in games 4 & 5 was very noticeable and a huge reason that we couldn’t pull off a win. After all of this negativity being put on Harden’s name, Joel Embiid told him that he needed to be aggressive. It’s safe to say that Harden heard his message loud and clear.
Right out the gate James Harden was showing that he was going to be aggressive in the game 6 matchup. After just the first quarter, James Harden found himself having 10 points, leading the way for the Sixers. This aggression didn’t stop but instead turned into him looking to make the right play every possession. Even in the first quarter Harden was trying to get the ball to his teammates for an open look and he succeeded throughout the entire game. In the second half Harden had 2 of his signature step back 3’s to make his performance even better.
That James Harden stepback.
— NBA (@NBA) April 29, 2022
Not to mention Harden’s efficiency that he’s lacked over the course of his time with Philly as he shot 58% from the field and 40% from 3. After the clock hit 0:00, Harden had 22 points, 15 assists, 6 rebounds, and a game-high +36.
A James Harden masterclass couldn’t have come at a better time. His performance in game 6 made it very clear that when Harden’s playing well, everybody plays well. His distribution of the basketball was key for the Sixers last night as it tired out a very energetic Raptors team. This will need to be the type of play that Harden will produce in the series against Miami.
The Heat have a very talented roster and we aren’t going to be able to afford a mediocre performance from Harden. That being said, his entire energy felt different last night and he could very well be starting to adapt to his new role. At the end of the day he hasn’t had this role before in his career and it takes time to adapt. When Harden has his mind on something, it’s hard to keep him from achieving it. We’ll need his mentality and play from game 6 in just about every game against the Heat.
For now, as fans we should all say thank you to James Harden for stepping up when it mattered most, and proving all of the doubters wrong.