76ers' Joel Embiid Says James Harden 'Needs to Be Aggressive' After Game 5 Loss

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 05: Joel Embiid #21 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers look on in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on April 05, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid called on teammate James Harden to become more aggressive offensively after Monday's Game 5 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Tom Moore @TomMoorePhilly

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sixers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Sixers</a> center Joel Embiid on James Harden only taking 11 shots in Game 5: β€˜I just want him to be aggressive. … I’m not the coach.’ <a href="https://t.co/6fsd0kZFCk">pic.twitter.com/6fsd0kZFCk</a>

Embiid added Harden's play wasn't the only thing that held the team back as it shot just 38.3 percent from the field in the 103-88 defeat, which dropped its series lead to 3-2:

Kyle Neubeck @KyleNeubeck

Embiid on Harden only taking 11 shots: "I've been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive and he needs to be himself. That's not really my job, that's probably on coach to talk to him and tell him to take more shots"<br><br>Full quote: <a href="https://t.co/vc5WIpROLO">pic.twitter.com/vc5WIpROLO</a>

Harden averaged 13.6 shot attempts in 21 regular-season appearances for the Sixers after his arrival in a blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets. That represented his lowest number of shots per game since 2010-11, when he was a reserve for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It has slid a bit further through the early stages of the playoffs (13.4 shots), and he's shooting a lackluster 37.6 percent from the field on those attempts.

While it wasn't a major concern as the 76ers were cruising to a 3-0 lead, tension is starting to build as the Raptors have worked their way back into the series with two straight wins.

"It will be nice to shoot the basketball well," Harden told reporters. "We have to do everything in the sense of not turning the ball over, rebound the basketball very well and I don't think we did that from the beginning of the game."

Harden's 11 shots Monday night ranked behind Tobias Harris (16), Embiid (15) and Tyrese Maxey (14). He also finished just one ahead of Danny Green (10).

Even though there are benefits to a balanced offense, the Sixers acquired the 10-time All-Star to take over games, especially when other players were struggling. That hasn't happened much. He's tallied over 30 points just once in a Philadelphia uniform.

With Harden opting to focus more on distributing and the rest of the team cold from the field, the Raptors pulled away with relative ease in Game 5.

"We never brought the fight to them at the beginning of the game, really," Harris said.

It'll be interesting to see whether Harden's approach changes in Game 6 after Embiid's public plea for him to take on a more assertive role.

In the big picture, no team in NBA playoff history has ever blown a 3-0 series lead, so history is still firmly on the Sixers' side. They'll need a major bounce-back effort in order to avoid a Game 7, though.