James Harden inspires the Philadelphia 76ers as they tie series with Miami Heat
James Harden went off for 31 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including six 3-pointers, to help the Philadelphia 76ers even up the series against the Miami Heat at two games apiece.
"The Beard" also contributed nine assists and seven rebounds, mirroring the Houston Rockets' version of himself, something Sixers fans have been waiting to see.
"I just took what the defense gave me," Harden said. "Same shots, just made some. Nothing really changed, man. I made some shots. That's I mean, obviously that's a game changer. But [I was] just being aggressive."
Much has been made out of Harden's game being affected by the change in foul rules, in addition to his inability to stay in proper game shape and the loss of explosiveness in his drives to the rim due to injuries to his hamstring.
He shut that all down on Sunday night, pouring in 16 points in the fourth quarter alone and hitting the dagger 3-pointer with a little over a minute left in the game.
JAMES HARDEN DAGGER.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2022
BEARD IS BACK. pic.twitter.com/0Z8QhdojLM
"We're getting more confident as the series goes on," Harden said. "Those first two games [were] a blur. But obviously, having Joel and having our full team, we kind of know what to expect."
"We know where to execute on both ends of the ball. It just makes the job a lot easier. Think about: We're still a fairly new team. We're damn near two months. So when we finally catch a rhythm and finally find something that works, Joel goes off for a couple games."
"So we're finally settling into the series, and we've had some great things that have worked tonight and that we can capitalize off in Game 5."
Having Joel Embiid back out there, even a compromised version of him, is a huge difference-maker for the Sixers, as he has the ability to get you a bucket in a multitude of ways and shut down the paint on defense.
Can the Sixers advance past the Heat?
This series ended up being far closer than anyone expected, especially when you consider that the Heat handled the Sixers with ease in the first two games of the series,
However, now that Embiid is relatively healthy and the series is tied up, the Sixers should be viewed as the overwhelming favorites to get to the Conference Finals at this point.
Harden appears to have found his niche within the Sixers' offense and knows that he can't carry the load all by himself. He'll set plays up for others and put Embiid in a perfect position to do some damage.
Tyrese Maxey will also continue to put up huge scoring numbers within the confines of the Sixers' offense.
Buckle up, folks; this series is about to get real interesting!