Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
While star center Joel Embiid sat out because of an orbital fracture and concussion, the Philadelphia 76ers needed James Harden to play like the former NBA MVP he is in Monday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Harden didn’t come close to his prime form as he put forth a lackluster performance in a 106-92 loss at FTX Arena. Harden scored 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting with nine rebounds, five assists and five turnovers. It had already been expected that the Sixers would face an uphill battle against the top-seeded Heat, but Philadelphia has no chance in the series if Harden continues to play like this.
Naturally, fans on social media called out Harden for his quiet night.
Eliot Shorr-Parks @EliotShorrParks
Most disappointing part of tonight for the Sixers has to be James Harden. The Heat look very beatable. They will have a chance on Embiid is back. But once again Harden has not looked any better in a spot the team really needed him to be. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sixers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Sixers</a>
As Harden struggled, his Sixers teammates weren’t that much better. Tobias Harris scored 27 points and Tyrese Maxey added 19, but they were the only bright spots. Philadelphia shot just 6-of-34 (17.6 percent) from three-point range against a staunch Miami defense.
But despite impressively locking up the Sixers, the Heat shot just 43.5 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from beyond the arc. Some fans were disappointed that Philadelphia wasted a chance to steal a road win thanks to its own subpar shooting.
Andrew Unterberger @AUgetoffmygold
Boy this stinks. Sixers did so many things well in the first half and just went away from all of ’em in the second. Shooting 16% from three certainly isn’t gonna help but feels like a lot of the mistakes made tonight were avoidable and/or Doc-induced. Game 2 still very winnable.
The Sixers are optimistic that Embiid could return as soon as Game 3 or 4 when the series heads back to Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The team has to hold on to that hope because it cannot depend on Harden to lead the way to victory. Regardless of his history of postseason woes, Harden has not displayed the dominance we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him at all this season, and he can no longer be counted on as a consistent lead option.
On the other side, Jimmy Butler (15 points and nine rebounds), Tyler Herro (25 points and seven assists) and Bam Adebayo (24 points and 12 rebounds) led the way for the Heat.