The 76ers just got a harsh dose of reality regarding James Harden

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There hasn’t been much to complain about for the Philadelphia 76ers since James Harden made his highly anticipated debut after the All-Star break. With Harden on the court, Philly has won four straight and scored at least 123 points in every game.

But that was a different story Saturday night.

With Harden sitting down to rest his hamstrings, the 76ers had just 82 points in a blowout loss to the Miami Heat, and they received a harsh dose of reality in the process.

The 76ers seem helpless against the Heat

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NBA schedule officials didn’t give the 76ers much of a chance against the Heat on Saturday night. The team had to travel to Miami straight after Friday’s hard-fought win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Philadelphia and face the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia also decided to hold Harden out of the game to give his ailing hamstring a break, so it would have taken a Herculean effort from the Sixers to pull off the upset. What we saw was the exact opposite.

Without Harden on the court, the Sixers weren’t able to properly space the floor, and the wide-open looks they got in the previous four games disappeared. Joel Embiid struggled to find attacking success with double and triple teams surrounding him all night.

After scoring at least 123 points in four straight games, Philly only managed 82 points against the Heat in a 99-82 loss. The team shot 34% from the field and 17% from three on 41 attempts.

The Harden effect – or in this case – the lack thereof.

Sixers get a harsh dose of reality about James Harden

We’ve glimpsed how dangerous Philadelphia can be with Harden and Embiid on the field, but now we know how lifeless the new 76ers are when not at full strength.

The defenses struggled to slow down the Harden-Embiid duo as they can’t afford to overtake either player. There’s also so much focus on the pick-and-roll action that it leaves Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris wide open on the ball. When Harden isn’t on the field, however, teams can use Embiid and make life a whole lot harder for this Sixers offense.

“Obviously if all this attention is on me, it would be different if he was there because you have to keep it in a certain way, and that opens up a lot for it to be me,” Embiid told reporters afterwards. the game. “He’s just another guy who gets so much attention. It makes the game easy.

Despite Harden’s absence, Maxey said “there is no excuse” for the team’s performance against the Heat.

“He hadn’t been with us all year. We’ve won games like this so we just have to go out there and get the job done no matter who’s on the pitch. This has been our motto all year.

Harden’s health crucial to 76ers title hopes

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during a game against the Miami Heat | Mark Brown/Getty Images

The 76ers are legitimate championship contenders when fully healthy, but Saturday proved they might not make it out of the first round if Harden isn’t on the court. The Eastern Conference is brimming with talent this year, so Philadelphia will need to be 100% to have a shot at making the NBA Finals.

We don’t know exactly how serious Harden’s lingering hamstring injury is. He looked perfectly fine in his four starts for the Sixers after the All-Star break, so keeping him out of lineup on Saturday was likely a precaution rather than a concerning development.

Either way, it’s imperative he’s going full throttle before the playoffs.

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