PHILADELPHIA – After a third consecutive Sterling performance in the 76ers’ uniform – but the first in front of the fans here inside the Wells Fargo Center – James Harden Philadelphia declared to look like home.
“It’s just exciting,” Harden said after finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Philadelphia’s 123-108 win over the New York Knicks in front of a raucous crowd here on Wednesday night. “Love, fans, it feels like home. Just love, and support, man, from looking around, and hearing, ‘We love you, James.'”
“It just makes me go out and play more aggressively, and I just wanted to do whatever it took to win.”
So far in the 76er’s uniform, Harden is 3 for 3 in this regard, as Philadelphia — along with Milwaukee’s last-second win over Miami on Wednesday night — now sits two games behind the Heat for the lead in the Eastern Conference standings.
All everyone here is focused on, though, is that Harden finally steps onto the field in uniform in front of his new audience for the first time since Philadelphia took over in the blockbuster movie. Ben Simmons Trade with Brooklyn Nets three weeks ago. Harden’s slow buildup of hamstring injuries that plagued his final days in Brooklyn caused him to miss the team’s last home game, on February 15, and saw him make his first game last Friday in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves before playing again on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. against the Knicks.
Both games, like Wednesday night’s rematch with New York, ended in Philadelphia’s victories. And while it is still very early in this major trial and there are still tougher opponents ahead, all participants are quite happy with the early progress.
“I mean, we all get along,” he said. Joel EmbiidWho finished the match with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in 34 minutes. “You have someone in James who brings his experience, his ability to create play, his ability to score and he adds something and he’s been fantastic and what we have in the team. It all fits.”
It fits, in part, due to the continued appearance of the second year guard Therese Maxiwho took it one step further after impressing him as a starting point guard all season when Simmons was far from the team looking for a deal.
Maxi’s 25-point performance on Wednesday was his third in a row with over 20 points since Harden entered the squad. On Wednesday, Maxi’s 21 points came after the break, when he said Harden gave him a wake-up call.
“Well, James came up to me, and asked if I was going to play today,” Maxi said with a smile of their halftime conversation, and I said, “Yes.”
Having men like James, [Embiid]Tobias [Harris], just saying I have to be aggressive… I can’t be passive like this. I have to help these guys and we have to help these guys as a team as much as possible.”
“We want him to be aggressive,” Harden later said. “I know it’s hard because Joel and I have the ball, but when he gets the chance, he has to be aggressive.”
In the end, though, Philadelphia goes as far as its new superstar Harden and Embiid can take them.
When the 76s were introduced before the match, Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” would reverberate through the speakers and bounce around the out-of-box arena.
The song, about seizing the moment and not letting a single chance at greatness slip away, was fitting when looking at the 76ers as a whole. Harden was acquired with championships in mind—both for Harden, who only lacks a ring on his first career Hall of Fame poll, and for the 76ers, who haven’t won a championship in nearly 40 years and haven’t. t have made the NBA Finals since 2001.
Starting Friday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers come here, the 76 players play nine of their next 10 games against the playoff teams before going on a five-game road trip to finish the month — a much tougher stretch than the first three games they played. In the age of Harden.
For now, though, the 76ers will get the wins when they can get them, as they continue to try to build toward what they hope will be a long playoff this spring.
“Every game for us is going to be tough,” Harden said. “We’re new, we’re relatively new, we’re still learning from each other. Every game is going to be a learning experience for us, and we’ll have to find ways to keep getting away, keep getting better, win or lose. Obviously it’s better to win to find out, but it will be Great tests for us and we are really looking forward to that.”