Joel Embiid Praises James Harden After 76ers' Win: 'That’s the Reason Why He’s Here'

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 9, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA - MAY 8: James Harden of Philadelphia 76ers and Max Strus of Miami Heat in action during NBA semifinals between Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States on May 8, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

James Harden finally looked like James Harden on Sunday, pouring in 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 116-108 win over the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Joel Embiid said that performance was exactly what the Sixers needed.

"That's the reason why he's here. That's the reason why we brought him," Embiid told reporters after the game. "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 how they were guarding everybody else and making tough shots, he's been doing that his whole career and that's why he's here."

Harden's struggles have been one of the biggest concerns for the Sixers in these playoffs. The 2017-18 NBA MVP has looked like a shell of himself as a scorer through the first three games of the series, posting as many turnovers (15) as made shots (15). With Embiid out for the first two games and the Sixers needing a scoring punch, Harden totaled only 36 points while the team dropped both games in Miami. 

Sunday's outburst was Harden's first 30-point performance since a March 29 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and just his second in a Sixers uniform.

“We’re getting more confident as the series goes on,” Harden said. “I mean, those first two games were a blur. But having Jo and our full team, we kind of know what to expect. We know where to execute on both ends of the ball.”

The Sixers will need this version of Harden—or at least something close to it—to complete their comeback.

Embiid is valiantly playing through a fractured orbital bone in his eye and a torn thumb ligament but is clearly not 100 percent. While he's played 74 minutes in two games since his return, he's still working his conditioning back after being forced into a period of inactivity while recovering from a concussion. The All-Star center put up 24 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4; none of those points came in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers are good enough to beat the Heat with a diminished version of Embiid. However, they aren't likely to win two of the next three games with Embiid and Harden being diminished versions of themselves.

With Embiid's body being held together by Elmer's glue and a hammer-proof mask, it'll be up to Harden to keep proving why the Sixers brought him to Philly.