Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers had Joel Embiid on the bench to begin the fourth quarter and they needed James Harden to step up and lead the way. The Miami Heat were within four of the Sixers at the beginning of the fourth quarter and with Embiid on the bench, it seemed like a big opportunity for them.
Instead, Harden was able to drop 16 points in the final frame and finished with 31 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 116-108 win over the Heat in Game 4. Philadelphia was able to win those minutes with Embiid on the bench thanks to Harden being able to step up and lead the way.
“That’s the reason why he’s here,” Joel Embiid said. “That’s the reason why we brought him. Since he’s gotten here, he’s been adjusting based on what we need from him whether it’s playmaking and tonight, just going and getting a bucket. Especially, based on the way they were guarding everybody else and making tough shots. He’s been doing that his whole career. That’s why he’s here.”
Harden has always had a history of being an explosive scorer, but he just hasn’t shown it yet for the Sixers. When the team needed it the most, he stepped up.
“It was great to see,” said Tyrese Maxey. “They were switching everything, we didn’t really have a lot of movement or a lot of continuity so he just hit some big 1-on-1 shots. In the playoffs, sometimes everybody knows what they’re trying to get to, everybody knows what each team is trying to get to, and they take things away. You have to have a lot of different 1-on-1 scorers on your team.”
A big thing Harden and the Sixers were able to do with Embiid on the bench was get the Heat in foul trouble. By the time the big fella re-entered the game, Miami was in the bonus and Philadelphia was able to close it out from there.
“That was the game right there,” said Harden. “That was the game. Jo did a really good job of giving his all. Especially, in that entire third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we started with the possession and we had three minutes to build that lead up to as many as we can and try to get it to double digits. We did a good job of that and credit to our defense and our pace.”
Coach Doc Rivers added that he was proud of the way Harden and that group was able to get the Heat in trouble and then go from there when Embiid returned.
“Joel needed rest, that group came on the floor, we created fouls, we increased the lead, and when Joel came back in the game at 7:30 minutes, we were already in the penalty,” said Rivers. “That’s huge. Now every time they touch you, they foul you, you go to the line, and make free throws. That’s a big thing to do.”