76ers’ Joel Embiid criticizes James Harden after 2nd straight loss to Raptors
Philadelphia’s MVP finalist was not pleased after his team’s loss and in his eyes, it seems one of his teammates was responsible.
There is most definitely some head scratching going on behind closed doors in the 76ers’ camp and if there isn’t, there probably should be.
Are the Philadelphia 76ers in trouble?
At 3-0 up in the series, one would expect that the 76ers would already be drawing up strategy for the next opponent in the playoffs with the idea that completing a first round sweep of the Toronto Raptors would be just a formality. That, however, was two games ago and with the series now at 3-2 after two gritty Raptors wins, the Sixers are most definitely not looking a sure bet to advance. To make matters worse, star player Joel Embiid has a torn thumb ligament - though he continues to play - and will require surgery in the offseason. With Game 6 to be played in Toronto, things are looking rather bleak suddenly for a team that has been among the favorites to win a championship this year. If the Raptors force a Game 7 - in Philadelphia - the Sixers will have to deal with the weight of not becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a playoff series after leading 3-0. Expect war.
76ers’ Joel Embiid takes a swipe at teammate James Harden
Speculation aside, it’s never a good look in any team sport when a player criticizes one of their teammates publicly, but unfortunately that’s just what happened. Speaking postgame it was clear that Joel Embiid frustrations had got the better of him after the 76ers 103-88 loss on Monday night, as he made what can only be considered a clear and direct criticism of James Harden. Indeed, the Sixers’ MVP candidate was frank when speaking about Harden who to be fair has not looked anywhere close to the player that we have come to know over time, with increasingly more hesitation when it comes to shooting.
Addressing what could be done about Harden, Embiid responded, “That’s not really my job” and then went on to say, “that’s probably on coach to talk to him.” Neither comment suggests the kind of unity we normally like to imagine exists between athletes at this level. What then is the problem with Harden? On the one hand it would be easy to say he needs to improve his shooting percentage. At the moment Harden is only averaging 18 points on 37% shooting in the series along with a dismal 31% from beyond the arc. Yet the real issue here seems to be one of aggression or rather lack there of. Quite simply Harden has struggle to get past his defenders and on the occasions that he does he has opted to pass rather than take the ball to the rim.
What’s the matter with James Harden?
In total James Harden took 11 shots during Monday’s game. That’s to say that the 2018 league MVP attempted to score just 11 times in a game that saw him score nine points across the first three quarters, before scoring a pair three pointers in the fourth quarter to end the night with 15. It must be said, however, that if there is one thing the seasoned player is still doing, it’s shot creation for his teammates, on the other hand that’s clearly not the only thing.he was signed to do when Philly sent Ben Simmons in the opposite direction.
Of course there are those who will argue that this is no surprise. When playing with the Nets, Harden was already showing a decrease in his scoring, but there was the question of his fitness. Could it be the Philly’s management bought in to the idea that he hadn’t fully recovered from his hamstring injury? Regardless, the pressure is now well and truly on and by all accounts it would appear that James Harden is not the man to be counted on to relieve it.
What now for James Harden and the 76ers?
While Embiid’s comments about his teammate will certainly draw attention until Game 6 arrives, expect both players and the franchise itself to put the scenario squarely behind them as there is still the small matter of a series to be closed out. That being said, logic would dictate that things are about to get very interesting, as Toronto is surely going to give everything they have and probably more when they host the Sixers at home. Should the Sixers actually collapse then rest assured we will be hearing Harden’s name again as one of the culprits. Yet one could argue that it will also be the case for the likes of Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey. Watch this space!