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NBA news: The Philadelphia 76ers will need a better James Harden to beat Miami Heat

The Philadelphia 76ers managed to fend off the Toronto Raptors in the first play-off round, despite threatening to become the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 series lead.

The Sixers left little doubt on Thursday night, as they crushed the Raptors by 35 points to progress to the play-off quarter-finals. 

Joel Embiid put on a classy performance as he produced 33 points, ten rebounds, three blocks, and two steals, despite dealing with a torn ligament in his right thumb.
James Harden also put up a solid performance, as he had 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 15 assists and six rebounds.
Tyrese Maxey also played a big part in the game, providing 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with eight assists.
Another man who went under the radar was Tobias Harris who added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Getting past the Raptors was huge for the Sixers, as the narratives about them trading for Harden would've been ugly had they lost to them or, worse yet, blew a 3-0 lead.
But in order for Philadelphia to beat the Miami Heat, they're going to need Harden to step up and be as close to his old self as possible, meaning he has to take more shots and draw more free-throw attempts.

What Harden needs to do against Miami

Harden has made a living from getting to the free-throw line throughout his entire career.
He barrels his way in and draws contact before getting easy points at the stripe. He gets his defender to bite on pump fakes, and leans into them on many instances when he's taking a three.
Harden isn't expected to average over 35 points per game like he did when he was with the Houston Rockets, but we can still expect him to take a little more than 13 shot attempts per night, given that he's the second option at minimum on this team, especially with Embiid dealing with a bad thumb injury.
His playmaking is to be commended. However, as he's been responsible for getting Embiid to his optimal spots where he doesn't have to worry so much about shooting jumpers; rather, he can focus on layups and other aspects of the game.
He has also been a huge part of the reason why Maxey has seen so much play-off success, as Maxey is averaging 21.3 points on over 51 percent shooting to go along with 4.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.
If Harden can somehow revert anywhere close to his MVP self this series, then we can very well see the Sixers beating the Heat and making those all-important semi-finals.

READ MORE: Here's why Kevin Durant is a 'bus driver' and not a 'rider', despite Charles Barkley's criticism

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