Philadelphia – James Harden picked a perfect time to have his best game for the Philadelphia 76ers.
After announcing that the series would return to Miami after 76 players lost both games there to start this best of 7 relationship, Harden put in 31 points – including 16 in the fourth quarter – and hit 6 three-pointers – his most since arriving here three ago months – to lead the 76ers to a 116-108 victory over the Heat.
As a result, this series is, in fact, tied 2-2 back to Miami for Game 5 Tuesday night.
“Our confidence increases as the streak continues,” said Harden, who finished the game with 31 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and six times in 41 minutes. These are the first two matches [were] mist. But obviously, with Joel and our whole team, we kind of know what to expect.
“We know where the execution is on both ends of the ball. It just makes the job a lot easier. Think: We’re still a fairly new team. We’re close to two months. So when we finally catch the rhythm and finally find something that works, Joel goes in two games.”
“So we’ve finally settled on the streak, and we have some great things that worked tonight and we can build on in game five.”
The thing that worked best for Philadelphia in its home games in this series, compared to Games 1 and 2, was just the shots being fired. After moving 14-for-64 from 3-pointers in Miami, Philadelphia went to 16-for-33 from behind the arc in both Games 3 and 4 — swinging 54 points — to overturn the series.
And it was Harden who threw some daggers along the court, scoring four times in the fourth quarter alone to help Philadelphia fend off Miami, who almost clinched the win despite their terrible shooting performance (7 for 35 of 3) behind them. Jimmy Butler’s amazing performance is 40 points.
“I took what the defense gave me,” Harden said. Same shots, just made some. Nothing really changed, man. I did some shots. I mean, that obviously changed the rules of the game. But [I was] Just being aggressive.”
Harden’s aggressiveness was evident. His 18 shot attempts overall and his 10 3-point shot attempts were his second most on a shot 76 times, and his most in these playoffs, while his 10 free throw attempts were also his most in these playoffs.
Paired with another strong game from Joel Embiid (24 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) in his second game of a facial fracture and concussion that cost him his first two games of the series and 18 points from Therese Maxi, it was enough. Get Philadelphia up to speed again with Miami as the series moves to South Beach.
“We want him to be aggressive,” said 76th forward Tobias Harris. But he did a great job evaluating the game, [finding] Where he can play plays where he can take snapshots. Tonight, go. You just see the confidence that he’s going down the hill, and then the three ball opens up in front of him.
“What we really need to do every night is what he does. Just be solid for us and be able to really pick the defense, how they play with it. He sees a lot of defensive coverage there on the ground. Often times they’re on the field as well, so in some Sometimes it’s hard for him to be very aggressive on the offensive end. But when he’s in a groove like that, we get him with the ball and keep going.”
Harden’s tournaments helped mask some of the 76ers’ performance shortcomings. Throwing the ball back in, they made 17 spins that turned into 24 points in Miami, which is how the Heat managed to stay in touch despite 76 players firing 54% of the field and against a warming of 3.
Miami also had 48-34 in points in the paint, and the 76ers were powerless to stop Butler throughout the game.
“He was tough,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “He was tough. Listen, I have to see the movie. But he frustrated me tonight. [76ers assistant] Burke was almost off the cliff.
“I mean, he made everything. You know what he did tonight? He left a lot. That’s something he didn’t really do in the past. So we have to figure that out because it was tough and he scored on everyone. He didn’t care who he was, he was scoring. He’s strong.”
But, in the end, it’s not tough enough to stop the 76ers from doing what Harden said they would do when they left the shores of Biscayne Bay four days ago: tie that chain in two games each. And now that she’s back in Miami, there is a very big difference for Philadelphia going forward.
“Joel will be on the plane,” Rivers said.