In Game 4, the Philadelphia 76ers have been playing their best basketball this series. This is thanks to James Harden’s ability to carry his team on his back and a great performance from the rest of the Houston Rockets squad. The next game will be crucial for Philly if they want to take home some spoils in what has been an incredibly tight matchup so far.,
12:00:58 A.M. ET
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — With the Philadelphia 76ers, James Harden had his finest game at the ideal moment.
Harden scored 31 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, and sank six 3-pointers, his highest since coming in Philadelphia three months ago to lead the 76ers to a 116-108 win against the Heat in this best-of-seven series.
As a consequence, the series is now deadlocked at 2-2, with Game 5 set for Tuesday night in Miami.
“As the series progresses, we’re growing more confidence,” said Harden, who ended with 31 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, and six turnovers in 41 minutes. “Those first two games went by in a flash. But, clearly, with Joel and our whole team on board, we know what to anticipate.
“On both ends of the ball, we know where to execute.” It just makes the task easier. Consider this: we’re still a very new crew. It’s been over two months. So, after we’ve settled into a routine and found something that works, Joel disappears for a couple of games.
“So we’re finally settling into the series, and we’ve had some wonderful Things Work tonight that we’ll be able to capitalize on in Game 5.”
Making shots has been the most effective strategy for Philadelphia in its home games this series, compared to Games 1 and 2. After shooting 14-for-64 from 3-point range in Game 1, Philadelphia shot 16-for-33 from beyond the arc in Games 3 and 4 to turn the series around.
And it was Harden who supplied a couple daggers down the line, hitting four triples in the fourth quarter alone to help Philadelphia hold off Miami, which almost pulled off a victory despite its own poor shooting (7-for-35 from 3) because to Jimmy Butler’s 40-point outburst.
Harden remarked, “I simply took what the defense provided me.” “I just took some new ones. Man, nothing actually changed. I took some pictures. That’s what I mean; it’s certainly a game changer. However, I was only being aggressive.”
Harden’s aggression was palpable. His 18 total shot attempts and 10 3-point attempts were both the second-highest in his 76ers career and the most in the playoffs, while his 10 free throw attempts were also the most in the playoffs.
It was enough to pull Philadelphia even with Miami as the series shifts back to South Beach, thanks to another strong performance from Joel Embiid (24 points, 11 rebounds, two assists) in his second game back from the facial fracture and concussion that cost him the first two games of this series, and 18 points from Tyrese Maxey.
Tobias Harris of the 76ers remarked, “We need him to be aggressive.” “However, he does an excellent job of assessing the game and determining where he can create plays and shoot shots. He got going tonight. You can watch his confidence grow as the game progresses, and suddenly the three ball opens up for him.
“What he does on a nightly basis is exactly what we need him to do. Simply be consistent for us and able to pick apart the defense and how they’re playing him. He notices a lot of defensive coverages on the field. They often zone up the court as well, making it difficult for him to be aggressive on the attacking end. We simply get him the ball and keep it rolling when he’s in a rhythm like that.”
Harden’s heroics helped the 76ers overcome certain flaws in their play. They flung the ball about once again, committing 17 turnovers that resulted in 24 Miami points, which is how the Heat were able to remain in the game despite the 76ers shooting 54% from the field and becoming hot from three.
Miami also outscored the 76ers 48-34 in the paint, and Butler was unable to stop him throughout the game.
76ers coach Doc Rivers described him as “rough.” “He was a fighter. Listen, I have to see a movie. However, he irritated me tonight. Dan Burke, a 76ers assistant, was nearly down the edge.
“He created everything, after all. What did he do tonight, do you know? He took a lot of left turns. That is something he has never done in the past. So we’ll have to work out that one since he was difficult and scored on everyone. He didn’t care who it was; he just wanted to score. He’s a fighter.”
But not difficult enough to keep the 76ers from achieving what Harden promised when they departed the beaches of Biscayne Bay four days ago doing what Harden said they’d do. Bring the series to a two-game tie. And now that it’s returning to Miami, there’s one major change for Philadelphia going forward.
Rivers said, “Joel is going to be on the aircraft.”
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