PHILADELPHIA — 76ers’ James Harden received a text message with a link to a gospel song from his coach, Doc Rivers, on his way to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday morning. ‘You Know My Name’ by Tasha Cobbs LeonardThis was the first time Rivers had sent a song to Harden. His curiosity was piqued.
“I say to my friends, ‘Let’s play the song,'” Harden recalled, adding: ”
Of course, it wasn’t random text. The basketball watching universe has spent nearly 36 hours analyzing Harden’s poor play in the last two games of his 76ers’ Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Boston Celtics. Rivers said the purpose of sending the song was to remind Harden of his identity.
“James had to pick himself up,” said Rivers.
Sure enough, with 19 seconds left in overtime on Sunday afternoon, Harden sank the baseline 3-pointer to lift the 76ers to a 116-115 win and level the best-of-seven series at 2-2. Harden had a great game in Game 4, scoring 42 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and four steals.
“Frankly, it was do-or-die today,” Harden said.
The 76ers have been a staple of the NBA playoffs over the last six seasons and have appeared in the conference semifinals five times. But those second-round series are where the road tends to end for them: The last time they made it to the conference finals was in 2001, when Allen Iverson overtook the Milwaukee Bucks to lead them to the NBA Finals. (The 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in his fifth game.)
Philadelphia’s collective patience seems to be waning. When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver presented 76ers center Joel Embiid with his first Most Valuable Player award ahead of Game 3, it was a shattered franchise team-building process known as was an achievement on at least one level of the blueprint for Without getting into too many pesky details, the team played terrible basketball for several seasons and collected many of the top draft picks they used to select Embiid from the University of Kansas.
Of course, the challenge for the 76ers was that the process wasn’t about earning individual honors, but that’s great. president of Daryl Morley is to fight for the championship. Embiid is 29 years old. The 76ers traded Harden last season. Before Game 4, Rivers was asked about his team’s urgency.
“Do you have to answer that question?” he said with a laugh. “You worked on that question for 48 hours and that’s what you came up with? No matter how high, I’m going to assume it’s high.”
Delivered by Harden. Early in the first quarter, he made a beeline to the basket, scored with a runner, and he playfully knocked the ball off his head after it went through the hoop. It was a sign of more pyrotechnics to come.
None were easy. The 76ers gave up a 16-point lead in the third quarter. Embiid struggled from the field, shooting 11-of-26, although he finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Jayson Tatum scored his 22 of 24 points after halftime and nearly led the Celtics to a commanding come-from-behind win. Instead, Harden shouldered the burden of his 76ers.
“I am always a competitor,” he said. “I always want to win.”
During the regular season, Harden acted as a facilitator, averaging a league-best 10.7 assists per game. He was neither a scorer nor a three-point shooter in his previous basketball life with the Houston Rockets. Instead, he formed a strong partnership with the team’s unifying force, Embiid. Everyone revolved around Embiid, Harden included, and for good reason.
Game 1 of the Celtics’ 76ers series unbalanced in a strange and unexpected way. Embiid sprained his right knee late in the first round and sat out, so Harden felt compelled to get into his own time machine and return to his gluttonous, ball-dominant days with the Rockets. He torched and scored 45 points while shooting 7 of 14 from 3-point range, leading the 76ers to a narrow victory.
Embiid was back in the lineup for Games 2 and 3, but suddenly Harden seemed too passive and reserved, too conscious of his teammate’s presence. It didn’t help much that Jaylen Brown stuck with Harden for so long. In these two losses, Harden shot 5 of 28 from the field and 2 of 13 he combined from 3-point range. Game 3 on Friday was particularly terrifying. Harden regularly passed open shots. When he fired his 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, he barely grazes the front of the rim. Many fans expressed their dissatisfaction.
“I think you can hesitate with anyone if you’re not hitting shots,” Rivers said.
Defending his shot selection, Harden told reporters: I know when to score I know when to pass, so I’m pretty sure it was the right play most of the time. ”
On Saturday, the 76ers had an extended shoot at their practice facility. Rivers had a Game 3 clip where he felt the 76ers needed to play more pace, where the Celtics passed them on rebounds and loose balls, where players showed poor body and his language. has been identified. Having made it to the NBA Finals last season and renewed their title ambitions, the Celtics carried themselves in a different way.
“I think yesterday’s film said what we should be,” Rivers said. Things aren’t going to work out and I’m just going to keep playing.”
The 76ers made a lot of mistakes on Sunday. Their offense stalled in the fourth quarter. They stopped moving and settled for a tough shot. But Harden has playoff experience, and he also The existence of John Hao, a student who survived the shooting at Michigan State University in February. Harden and Hao connected on his FaceTime.
Late in regulation, Harden’s runner against Celtics’ Al Horford tied the game at 107-107. And in overtime, Harden came up with a key steal while defending his smart Marcus. He seemed to have a calming effect on his teammates.
He also found himself in possession of the ball when it mattered most. he knew who he was.