The 76ers’ acquisition of James Harden has made some tremendous immediate returns, with the Beard leading Philly to a 2-0 record after the All-Star break.
Joel Embiid, one of the primary benefactors of the trade for the 2018 MVP, has called the fit between the two “unstoppable” after Embiid posted 37 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks in a 125-109 victory over the Knicks. Harden dropped his first triple-double as a 76er with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists.
“What are you really going to do?” Embiid said per ESPN. “He’s a great passer, and obviously, I’ve got someone [next to me] that attracts a lot of attention to him, so you’ve got to make a decision. Do you stay on me, or do you stay on him? And if you want to guard both of us with the other guys, now you’ve got Matisse [Thybulle] diving to the rim or wide-open shooters that have got one job to do, and that’s make shots. That’s all we got to keep doing.
“Like I was saying in the locker room, I’m happy I don’t have to post up every single possession, so it’s great.”
So far, Embiid and Harden have combined for 59 free throws against the Timberwolves and the Knicks. Harden went 10/10, while Embiid went 23/27 from the line. Embiid’s 27 freebies are the most a player has taken since Anthony Davis shot 27 himself in an October 2019 game against the Grizzlies.
Although Embiid hasn’t traditionally been a pick-and-roll threat, preferring to dominate out of the low-post and facing up. Playing with Harden has made Troel Embiid make sure he’s made a concerted effort to mix up rolling to the rim and popping to the three-point line since they started playing together.
“I thought I mixed it up pretty well the last two games. Tonight I obviously didn’t make any shots from the outside like I usually do,” said Embiid, who went 0-for-4 from behind the arc. “Against Minnesota, I had a couple rolls, half rolls and pops where I made shots, so it’s all about really figuring out by the feel, and tonight I felt like their bigs, they were either too high or too aggressive, so it gave me a free lane to attack the basket, which caused them to foul a lot.
“But it’s all about mixing. Sometimes it depends on how they’re guarding, sometimes I’m gonna pop, sometimes I’m gonna roll, but like I said, he attracts so much attention, so you can’t go wrong with both choices. If that night I’m making a lot of outside shots, I’m probably going to pop a lot, and then tonight I just saw I could get to the free-throw line really whenever I wanted. That’s why I was so aggressive.”
The 76ers (37-23) play the Knicks (25-36) again on Wednesday at the Well Fargo Arena.