In Philadelphia on Thursday, what was probably the most anticipated game of the season became an absolute stinker by the end of the first quarter.
Thanks to an aggressive assault by the Brooklyn Nets, the Sixers lost control of the game and were outplayed in nearly every single way.
Hours after the final buzzer, Bill Simmons went on his podcast to discuss the game and called out James Harden specifically for his failure to perform.
"This was an iconic James Harden game. and the vibe I was getting from the stands was like deep down, they know about the history, they knew he had some stinkers in his past. They knew they weren't sure if they were gonna be able to go to war with him. They knew he quit on two teams. This was the 'ug oh' game.
It didn't seem like Harden really wanted it. It was like watching a boxing match where one guy really wanted to mix it up and the other guy wasn't really ready to do it. I felt like Kyrie was in 'f you' mode with him Harden just wasn't matching it. It was weird to watch."
It was just a regular-season game, but it's one of a long line of failures for the Beard. For fans watching the game on Thursday, it was a brutal reminder of Harden's track record of disappearing in big games.
"As a superstar you gotta step up," said Shaquille O'Neal. "As the great Charles Barkley said, this is what we pay you for. $40 million. Everybody has been waiting for this game. This game has playoff implications. You’re going to have to beat them to win the championship. You wanted to be away from them you wanted to be traded somewhere where you have the chance to win a championship. You have to show Philly, show your team you’re ready. Im going to be trying to play my a** off during the big games. This is a big game. KD knows this is a big game because they won… If Philly want to go to that next step, James is going to have to step up. Can’t have games off.”
So far, Harden's tenure has gotten off to a great start overall. The vibes have been positive and his fit with Embiid has been seamless. But there is work to be done for the Sixers, and Harden still has to prove he is capable of stepping up in the postseason.
If things crash and burn this season, it could spell disaster for both Harden and the new-look 76ers.