Best of Three – Observations from Sixers 116, Heat 108

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Somewhere, Daryl Morey is smiling, because his trade deadline acquisition of James Harden is looking better than ever after the Sixers won 116-108 on Sunday night to even their best-of-seven series against the Miami Heat.

It’s a huge boon for the Sixers, because Harden was looking cooked down the regular season stretch and didn’t shoot the ball well in the playoffs up until this point. “Cooked” is a relative term to say that the former MVP was still showing flashes of brilliance here and there, but it seemed like he had lost the ability take over a game and score in bunches.

Not so fast my friends,” as Lee Corso would say.

Harden put up 31 points on 8 of 18 shooting (6-10 from three), and add seven rebounds and nine assists. It was his first 30 point game of these playoffs and first time he went for 30+ since March 29th against Milwaukee. It was the best three-point % since the Minnesota road game, which was his Sixers debut, and maybe better than anything numbers-wise, he just looked dialed in and emotionally attached to the game. We saw a couple of outward fist pump/celebratory gestures, which isn’t always what he’s about. He’s somewhat even keeled when it comes to on-court expression, so it was good to see him respond the way he did to some of those made baskets.

“Just took what the defense gave me,” said Harden after the win. “Same shots, just made some. Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots. Obviously, that’s a game changer, but just being aggressive… and that group that started the fourth quarter did a really good job of pushing the lead up and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

It’s true. It was largely a typical Harden game, with his always analytically-friendly shot plots:

Not a single thing outside of the paint or inside the three-point line. That’s his bread and butter.

Harden did a good job of identifying matchups, which he has been doing, if we’re being honest. He’s just had trouble hitting enough threes and showing that final burst when taking guys off the dribble. In this game, he attacked different players, going 6-11 against Victor Oladipo and Bam Adebayo alone. He looked more assertive and automatic out there.

“It was amazing,” said Tyrese Maxey of Harden taking over in the fourth quarter. “It was great to see. You know, they were switching everything and didn’t let me have a lot of movement or a lot of continuity, so he just hit some big, long shots, and in the playoffs sometimes everyone knows what you are trying to do. Everybody knows what each team is trying to do to you and they take things away and it’s nice to have a lot of three-level scorers on your team and we have a few of those collectively, maybe four or five of them, and it’s just night-to-night to prepare and hook up.”

“We need him to be aggressive, but he does a great job of evaluating the game where he can make plays, where he can take his shots,” Tobias Harris added, referring to Harden. “Tonight he got going and you just see the confidence in him getting downhill first and then the three ball opened up for him. What we really need him to do on a nightly basis is what he does, just be settled for us and really pick up on the defense of how they are playing him. We see so many defensive coverages out there on the floor, there are times where there are zones on the court as well so sometimes it’s tough for him to be extremely aggressive on the offensive end, but when he is in the groove like that it’s just get him the ball and keep it going.”

It also helped that Miami couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from three (they shot 7-35), and credit the Sixers for playing another tough defensive game. Sequences like these don’t go into the stat sheet, but you could hear the crowd play off the early energy:

We’ve got ourselves a series baby.


“I’ve always been asleep, you just didn’t know it”

If you missed it last night, David Kelleher from David Auto Group was at the game and fell asleep courtside. The Sixers are now undefeated in games where David Dodge falls asleep. Get this man a plane ride to Miami and a My Pillow from Mike Lindell.

Believe it or not, this guy has already rung the Sixers bell. But that’s okay, I think we bring him back to do it again for game six:

jumbotron adventures

We need to have a conversation with the person doing the chyrons for the jumbotron (chyrons are the graphics that appear, like somebody’s name). Earlier in the year, this person spelled Dr. J’s name wrong, and Sunday night they identified DeVonta Smith as a former Eagle:

Former Eagle? What the hell yo? He’s been here for a grand total of one year. The jumbotron chyron guy/girl needs to be suspended.

Paying homage

Ben Simmons returned to Philly on March tenth wearing a $1,400 Louis Vuitton shirt, and lo and behold, some dude decided to pay homage to Ben (maybe) by wearing the same shirt to Game 4:

This shirt stinks. Reminds me of the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ben Simmons at the same time. Somebody get me the barf bag.

Other notes:

  • The Cure Auto Insurance press commercials have got to go. Fire them directly into the sun.
  • The Sixers shot 14 fewer shots than Miami. Still too many turnovers hurting this team. On a better Miami shooting night, turnovers are gonna be a backbreaker.
  • Doc rolling nine was fine. I think that bench group of Thybulle, Niang, Reed, and Milton is the group he’s gotta go with, unless he trims the rotation to eight for the rest of the series. All they have to do is hold serve while Embiid is out and they should be okay.
  • Harden became the 15th 76er to have a postseason game with at least 30 points, five rebounds and five assists.
  • Last one, via Sixers stats: “Meanwhile, Harden is also the third 76er in team playoff history (since 1996-97) to have a single quarter where he scored at least 15 points with four-or-more makes from three, joining J.J. REDICK and Hall of Famer ALLEN IVERSON (Stathead).”