James Harden will have to shoulder much of the offensive responsibility for the Philadelphia 76ers during their series against the Miami Heat. Joel Embiid sustained an injury during the 76ers' first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, one that will keep him away for a sizeable portion of the series against Miami. Harden has been the second option for the 76ers so far but understands the responsibility he has now.
James Harden spoke recently about the challenges of playing with Joel Embiid. He noted that he needs to be more aggressive from the start, and be the primary offensive option for the 76ers. Harden cited his long tenure in the league as the source of his confidence in himself. Harden also added that he wants to help the 76ers play their best basketball and have an advantage for when Embiid does return.
“[I just have to] be more aggressive,” Harden said. “I’ve been doing this — I’m comfortable and have been doing this for a long time. Just taking what the defense gives me and being aggressive, and making the right decision once I get to that point. More floor spacing and more attacks to the basket. We just have to play free — free and with the ultimate confidence as a group.”
“I had opportunities to score [this year],” Harden added. “I’m still averaging 20 something points in the regular season and 18-19 [in the playoffs]. At this point, man, it’s a sacrifice. I can score 30 something, and we could lose, and score 19, and we win. At this point, I just do whatever it takes to win the game. Sacrificing, I’m the ultimate team player. Now that Jo’s out, I gotta be more aggressive scoring the basketball, and I got to get to the basket and make the right decisions.”
Harden has been questioned in recent weeks over the level of his contribution to the 76ers. Shaquille O'Neal recently challenged Harden to step up in Embiid's absence and remind the world of the player he is. James Harden will need to show some of the scoring explosiveness that he did during his MVP years in Houston.
The 76ers will hope that they can at least keep level with the Miami Heat until Embiid's return. Embiid's return will give them a chance to make a push in the series. But considering how good the Heat have been defensive, the 76ers are in for a difficult series, especially without Harden available for the first 2 games.