James Harden has now played four games for the Philadelphia 76ers, and they’ve gone 4-0 in that stretch. Their latest win, a 125-119 victory against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers, was a full team effort that required plenty of concentration and guts.
After going down 21 points in the first half to the talented Cavaliers, the Sixers put their heads down and got to work. Harden’s contribution was significant, as he finished with 25 points and 11 assists. It’s worth noting that he got those points on just 10 field goal attempts, thanks to also making 11 of 12 free throws. Joel Embiid just missed a double-double with 29 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, but he also only took 14 shots. One of those was a huge fadeaway late in the game that helped keep the Sixers’ lead healthy.
The player of the game, without a doubt, though, was Tyrese Maxey. The rising star had a game-high 33 points along with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and block. He shot 10 of 15 overall, 5 of 6 from deep, and made 8 of 9 free throws. He was especially aggressive in the second half, where he picked up most of his points.
The comeback win against the Cavaliers also marked the fourth-straight game where Harden, Embiid and Maxey all scored more than 20 points, which according to the broadcasters is the first time that new teammates have done so in their first four games.
That’s quite the achievement, and a sign that Harden is more than happy to get back to more of a facilitator role. Having talented scorers around him will allow Harden to focus on using his elite playmaking to make the difference, and his full bag of tricks was on show today.
When the Harden trade happened, I was curious to see how they would integrate Maxey into the offense, considering that the 21-year-old had been having a breakout season while Ben Simmons kept himself benched. It looks like the answer is that Harden has no qualms about letting the youngster pick up the load on offense.
Now we actually have to start wondering how Tobias Harris fits in with the trio of Embiid, Maxey and Harden. He finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes of play while making 3 of 9 field goals. Harris, who is in the third year of a deal worth $180 million, is going to have to readjust quite a fair bit and play off the ball a lot more. Depending on how they do in the postseason, the Sixers may not want to continue paying someone north of $35 million a year to be the fourth option on a contender. It’s not really Harris’ fault that things are looking this way, but it’s something to keep track of over the season.