The beard is back!

Finally! After a long desert crossing, James Harden is back. Or at least on the right track. Unable to make any difference individually since the start of the playoffs, The Beard, encouraged by the return of his friend Joël Embid, delivered a great performance to lower the Heat. 2-2 between Philly and Miami, the tension continues.

31 points at 8/18 in shooting but above all 6/10 behind the arc and 9/10 in throws, 7 rebounds, 9 assists. And as a bonus a solid win against Miami. That’s why Darryl Morey took her lover to Pennsylvania. And the least we can say is that we are currently approaching a failure rather than a success. On the edge of the abyss, leading 2-0 and without a solution (deprived of Embiid), the Sixers seemed very poorly initiated, especially as the 2018 MVP did not put one foot in front of the other. And then the awful Jojo came back and in his bag, it seems, a new James Harden, absolutely flashy, absolutely delicious. Well, we are still very far from James Harden being able to hold more than 30 for 15 weeks and 32 games in a row. But still, the performance is noticeable.

His best performance in … a year

For it was now 13 games in a row in the playoffs (across the last two seasons) that he had not exceeded the crossbar by 25 points. And some of his accomplishments were … cross-border, to say the least. Offensive weapon number one in the first two matches in the absence of Embiid, he never exceeded 20 points. In the first round, in six games against brave but limited Raptors, he three times did not even reach that bar. We’re still talking about a player in the discussion having to be one, if not the best offensive player in history, whether we like it or not. His first (and only) post-season campaign with the Nets was shortened. Injured against the Bucks, he ended the series on one leg, unable to prevent the elimination of his family. We therefore have to go back to June 1, 2021 to see a dominant James Harden in the playoffs: 34 points, 10 rbds, 10 asters to finish the series against the Celtics. Another time, already.

“That’s why we brought him here”

Because if he switched franchises again, Harden came to Philadelphia to repeat this kind of performance. It lacked another offensive weapon on the side of the Well Fargo Center, Morey struck. His affiliation with Joël Embiid has raised many legitimate questions. The two swore to be compatible, and it was, of course, in the playoffs that the truth would emerge. At the moment, one like the other seems to have made concessions in favor of the collective. But it is at the end of the ballet that the musicians get paid.

If his performance, sovereign but far from stratospheric to him, is also highlighted, it’s also because Harden seems to have found the rage that characterized him in Texas. We felt motivated, determined. Above all, his last quarter, with 16 points scored as the Heat pressed hard to come back, shows that he has not lost any of his clutchitude. The whole group seems to trust him, and initially the leader, Jöel Embiid: “That’s why he’s here. That’s why we brought him here. Since he has been there, he has adapted to what we need, whether it is creation or points like this evening. When he saw how they defended themselves against others, he had to take some hard shots. That’s what he’s done all his career, and that’s why he’s here! »

Tobias Harris, who was the second weapon before the arrival of the bearded man, is also full of praise for the former Houston: “He’s doing a great job of analyzing the game. In his way of analyzing the moments in which he has the right to create and those in which he must take his shots. Tonight we could see his confidence, and after going in the circle, the 3-point positions opened up for him. He sees so many different defensive covers in front of him. Often they are in the zone and sometimes it is difficult for him to be aggressive in the attack. But when he finds his rhythm, just give him the ball and things will work out. »

Regularly criticized lately for his lack of leadership, he seems to have taken matters into his own hands. It is also his coach, Doc Rivers, who confirms this, after the meeting last night:“Joel needed a rest and when that group came on the field we made mistakes, we increased the lead and when Joel came back in the match they were already in penalty kicks. It’s huge. At that point, every time they touch you, they make mistakes, you cross the line, and you have seats. It’s important to us. »

The quiet force

Heckled from all sides, hated by the NBA since his incredible departure from the Toyota Center, he cares no more than that. Although his performance is condemned night after night, he knows what he is worth. “Nothing has really changed. I just took a few shots … We are still a fairly new team. We are barely two months old. We are finally positioning ourselves in this series, and tonight we found some things that worked. ”

He, who happened to see rumors announcing a possible interest on his part in a departure from the side of South Beach this summer, does not appear to be unnecessarily upset. He has nothing to do with his future at the moment and seems really focused on his 2022 playoff campaign.

He came to Philly to get a ring, and knows that if he leaves Pennsylvania empty-handed, there is probably no team that trusts him. But so far, the Sixers are still well into the battle for a possible qualification in the conference finals. The series against Heat has not been definitively launched, as Tony Parker likes to repeat as well (who incidentally had a couple of playoffs), a series is only really launched when one of the two teams s imposes on the outside. So far, Miami has won twice at the FTX Arena, while the Sixers have taken the next two at Well Fargo.

It will take a James Harden to level up until the end of the series if the Sixers want to achieve the feat of taking the Heat out of Spoelstra in the conference semifinals. Miami was disastrous yesterday in the recording (7/35 at 3pts) and Herro, Gab Vincent and others Lowrys will not miss it like that every night. Meanwhile, Philly can take a breather and head to Florida with a clear mind: the pressure will definitely be on the Heat for this game 5, the day after tomorrow. James Harden has set the record, and if the bearded man is able to continue, Miami has big problems to worry about.

photo credit: basket usa

Leave a Comment