It didn’t take long for James Harden to make his presence felt. Early in his Philadelphia 76ers’ debut, The Beard dribbled down the baseline and pulled out a beautiful cross-over en route to an easy and-one opportunity. He swished the free throw to put the Sixers up 10-6 with 8:43 showing in the first quarter.
Harden was sensational in his first game, showcasing his patented step-back three on multiple occasions while wowing with several no-look Houdini passes. He fired a strike down the court to a streaking Tyrese Maxey for a speedy lay-in. He played solid defense. He fought for rebounds. He was everything as advertised and more. Harden finished with 27 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds.
After the game, Sixers Twitter boiled over in excitement … to the point of nuclear explosion with emotions ranging everywhere from “worth every penny” to “championship here we come.” Harden hit as many three-pointers in one night than Ben Simmons hit during his entire career in Philly. That number is five. The Beard of Broad Street has arrived.
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Joel Embiid Loving Harden, Takes Shot at Simmons
The Embiid-Harden bromance is going strong after one game together in Philly. The Sixers destroyed the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-102 in Harden’s debut on Friday night. The dynamic duo combined for 61 points on 17-of-30 while drilling eight three-pointers. The Sixers got to the foul line 36 times, with Embiid and Harden going 19-of-22 from the charity stripe.
Embiid was the biggest beneficiary of Harden’s impact. He was virtually wide open all game and bullied Minnesota in the post when they did throw double teams his way. His stat line: 34 points, 10, rebounds, three assists. After the game, the Sixers big man gave all the credit to Harden for controlling the tempo … and seemed to rip Simmons.
“You should have seen my face every single time, especially in the fourth,” Embiid told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “You know, the first three quarters obviously making plays for all of us, and that was probably the most wide open I’ve ever been in my career.
“I had a lot of easy baskets. I used to have to work for everything, but in the fourth quarter, the shot-making ability, shot creation, you should have seen my face … it’s just like, I never had this, nothing close to it so hopefully that continues. We didn’t even play our best.”
Wait, was that last part a not-so-subtle shot at Simmons. Never had this? Nothing close to it? Simmons was supposed to be best known for his playmaking and passing. Sounds like Embiid has moved on.
Tyrese Maxey Shines Against Minnesota
Tyrese Maxey scored 28 points against Minnesota, the second-highest output behind Embiid. It was a slap in the face to those who thought the second-year guard was going to regress with Harden in the backcourt. Maxey was better than ever and the recipient of quite a few savvy veteran dimes from his new teammate. He flew up and down the court with reckless abandon while alternating the primary ball-handling duties with Harden.
Harden and Maxey were unstoppable in 67 combined minutes. And Maxey couldn’t stop gushing in his post-game press conference, especially when it came to Harden’s passing. He’s able to relax the defense and then unload that step-back trey unannounced. Maxey recalled Harden doing it to him in Brooklyn, then laughed about it being better having him as a teammate.
“It feels way better, it feels way better because I know from experience,” Maxey said. “When he was in Brooklyn and he was doing it to me, he would step back on me, and you touch him, and he gets a foul. But that comes from his ability to pass the ball. They are so worried about him passing and they are laying off, and now he’s creating for himself.”