Yes, it’s only one game. But what a game it was.
In the era of Curryball, Sixers fans have never cheered for guards who could shoot, pass, and dribble. And hit free throws. Lots and lots of free throws. And even wide-open dunks.
At 32, James Harden may be a few years past his prime, but he’s a revelation.
“That was probably the most wide open I’ve ever been in my career,” said Joel Embiid, who has a legit offensive weapon to partner with for the first time since ... uh Jimmy Butler.
Admittedly, Harden has always been one of my least favorite players to watch, effective as he is. But when he does two step-back three-and-ones in one game, you learn to live with it quickly. Embiid scored 34 points on 18 shots in 31 minutes during the Sixers’ 133-102 destruction of Minnesota. Harden scored 27 on 12 shots, including 5 of 7 from downtown.
Those five 3-pointers ties him with Ben Simmons’ career total. It’s easy to say the right things after one win, but Harden does sound like a man on a mission.
”I have nothing to prove individually. As a unit I think we have something to prove.”
Realistically there’s no team in the league equipped to defend Embiid and Harden. And perhaps most importantly, 21-year-old Tyrone Maxey shot 12-for-16 for 28 points, and proved, for one game at least, that he can thrive on a team with Harden.
“I know from his experience,” Maxey said, “when he’s doing his ‘tween-the-legs and steps back on me and you touch him and he gets a foul and you just be like …(hangs head)...but nah it was great.”
Imagine Brooklyn not demanding Maxey and still sending James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two picks. Couldn’t be me.
A February blowout in Minnesota is not a tight Game 7 in Milwaukee or Boston in the spring. But for now, Embiid, Harden and the Sixers look right together.