Erik Spoelstra Says 76ers Are 'Totally Different' with 'MVP Player' James Harden

Doric SamApril 29, 2022

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 28: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during the game against the Toronto Raptors during Round 1 Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Star shooting guard James Harden has yet to face the Miami Heat as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows his team has to be prepared to face a "totally different" group during their upcoming Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"He definitely changes the dynamic," Spoelstra told reporters after Friday's practice. "You're talking about an MVP player. A guy who can manipulate the game—he can hurt you whether he's scoring or whether he's assisting, or whether he's just manipulating the defense."

The Sixers acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets at February's trade deadline. He recorded 22 points and 15 assists in Thursday's Game 6 win over the Toronto Raptors as Philadelphia advanced into the second round. MVP finalist Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 33 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Spoelstra said the combination of Harden and Embiid is going to be something Miami's defense will have to focus on slowing down.

"They have two guys that really know how to draw fouls and do it exceptionally well," Spoelstra said. "So you have to do things with great discipline, great focus, but you don't want to back off on your aggressiveness, and that's that dance that we'll be wrestling with this series."

Spoelstra also had a ton of praise for Embiid, who has been one of the most dominant players in the league this season.

"You're talking about somebody who has great physicality and size that can punish you in that regard, but he also has finesse. He has shooting ability, deep range, shotmaking," Spoelstra said. "He's got touch that's uncanny in the paint. And then you add that element of also being able to create and open shots for other guys but also be able to draw fouls at any point if you just lose concentration."

The Heat will face the Sixers in Game 1 on Monday night at FTX Arena.