With the Sixers being up 2-0 in their first-round matchup, you would think everything would be sunshine and rainbows throughout the city. But, in natural Philadelphia form, they are not. Instead, this week’s complaint is the play of James Harden.

Let’s break down if there should be a concern.

So far in this series, Harden is averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. All these numbers are lower than what Harden averaged during the regular season. In this series, Harden is shooting an abysmal 32.4% from the field, yet an impressive 42.9% from three. Here’s the concerning part: James Harden has attempted 34 field goals this series; 21 have been from three-point range, that is, 62% of his shots coming from outside the arc. Harden is shooting 2/13 (15.3%) from two-point range, and if you haven’t watched James Harden before, those two-point attempts are primarily layups. Here is Harden’s shot just so far through this series via Perthritysix

Now why is this concerning?

Harden has been patronized throughout his career, questioning whether he is in shape. Numerous times this has been brought up in press conferences, and Doc Rivers said as recently as game one that Harden is indeed in shape.

Let’s give Harden and the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt and say Harden is in shape; then, he shows his age. Harden is settling for these step-back threes because he can’t get by his defender consistently anymore. Sixers fans are complaining that he is getting fouled, but in my opinion, he is simply not getting by his defender and trying to create contact instead and hoping a foul is called. Now this has always been a part of Harden’s repertoire, but Harden was always able to get his defender on his hip and use his strength to create angles to get to the basketball or dish the ball out to the corner or dunker’s spot. In this series, or at this age, Harden is going very central and trying to cross back over, which causes a lot of awkward-looking shots. Now, Harden thinks he’s getting fouled, and he might be, but the NBA refs are in advantageous positions, and Harden hasn’t put himself in those positions, hence why he has only shot two free throws throughout the first two games of the series. 

Now I will not go as far as some TV personalities like Brian Scalabrine and Colin Cowherd. 

 

Yet, there is a cause for concern as this is the second year in a row Harden’s play has seemed to dip in the postseason compared to the regular season. 

Now, there is a simple explanation: for starters, defense is played in the playoffs, players are a lot more physical, and the refs allow them to play like this. This is one of the reasons you see fewer fouls being called in favor of Harden. The Nets are putting their best perimeter defenders on Harden; Dorian Finney- Smith and Mikal Bridges are as good as you can get, but it only gets more challenging for Harden the deeper you go into the playoffs. When the Sixers play the Celtics, they will have four to five elite defenders they can throw on him, including DPOY Marcus Smart. But, if the Sixers conquer the Celtics, they will most likely play the Bucks, who have the best perimeter defender in the NBA in Jrue Holiday, and that’s not just me saying that; the players voted on it. 

Joel Embiid can drop 30 points every game, but teams will continue to double him. While Tobias has played exceptionally so far, this will unlikely continue the deeper the Sixers go into playoffs. This is not a Sixers are doomed article; this is pointing out that Harden needs to get his burst back. The Sixers had a week off, and maybe Harden has to get back into form after a long break. Regardless, if this is the Harden we will get for the rest of the postseason, it puts a ton of pressure on Tobias and Maxey to step up

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