Sixers Notes: Harden, Embiid, Tucker, Melton

While Sixers stars Joel Embiid and James Harden have had a tendency to occasionally fall back on “my turn, your turn” style offense this season, their chemistry in Game 4 was what the team envisioned when it acquired Harden at last year’s deadline to pair him with Embiid, as David Aldridge of The Athletic writes.

Embiid and Harden combined for 76 points on 27-of-49 (55.1%) shooting in Sunday’s crucial home win. They were also involved in the biggest offensive possession of the night, when Embiid passed out of a double team with about 20 seconds left in overtime and found Harden, who hit a three-pointer to give Philadelphia a one-point win lead. That shot proved to be the game-winner.

“When we space the floor, and we do the things we need to do, it’ll find an open shot,” Harden said. “Not just me and Joel, but just everybody who’s open. Once we did that, tonight, we did that at a high level, consistently. And that’s just great offense for us.”

Here’s more on the 76ers:

  • As Rich Hofmann of The Athletic writes, it has been a roller-coaster series so far for Harden, who has averaged 43.5 points per game on .622/.565/1.000 shooting in the Sixers’ two wins and 14.0 PPG on .179/.154/.842 shooting in the two losses. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look at what Harden’s performance in the present could mean for his future, noting that the guard’s name up frequently during the Rockets‘ interview process with head coaching candidates.
  • The 76ers’ decision to give P.J. Tucker a fully guaranteed three-year, $33MM contract last summer raised some eyebrows, but veteran postseason leadership the club sought from the 38-year-old was on full display in Game 4, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. After Embiid shied away from attacking Celtics center Al Horford during the final minutes of regulation, Tucker delivered a spirited on-court message to this season’s MVP. “Nobody can guard Jo, one-on-one. There’s no way,” Tucker said. “That’s not disrespect to Al or anybody else, but I guarded him for a lot of years. When he’s aggressive and assertive, it’s impossible. And I’d seen him, two or three plays in a row, not do that. And we can’t have that. We can’t have that. Not with the season in the line. We can’t have it.”
  • After letting a 16-point lead slip away, the Sixers looked like they might be headed for another devastating playoff loss on Sunday, but they pulled out a victory that head coach Doc Rivers attributed to the group’s improved “mental toughness,” as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays. “We’ve just got veteran presence,” Embiid told ESPN. “Guys that know how to win, that know how to play. A lot of teams could have quit. But we just stuck together. We just got a different mindset this year.”
  • De’Anthony Melton, a new addition to the team ahead of the 2022/23 season, has emerged as a consistent bright spot for the 76ers in the postseason, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Melton went scoreless in Game 4 but had put up at last 13 points in four of the five games before that and has played strong, versatile defense.
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