James Harden ‘A Magician’ in Sixers Statement Win Over Clippers

James Harden, Kawhi

Getty Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers speak during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center on December 23, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The vibes have continued to grow more and more positive surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers in recent games. They most recently faced off with the Los Angeles Clippers riding a six-game winning streak entering the matchup but still in search of a statement win to put the exclamation point on the homestand. The Sixers got this by taking down the Western Conference foes 119-114 and overcoming a 20-point deficit in the process. Doc Rivers made some notable adjustments throughout the game and several Sixers stepped up to pave the way to a win.

James Harden’s Play

Right at the top of the list of impressive performers is James Harden. The former MVP tallied 20 points, 21 assists, and 11 rebounds in the victory. This marked a career-high in assists and tied the 76ers’ franchise record for most assists in the game. It also was the 70th triple-double of Harden’s career.

Following the win, Shake Milton spoke highly of the superstar’s play. As he put it, “It’s unreal. He’s a magician when he has the ball in his hand…somebody of that offensive caliber, you just have to give him the rock and let him rock,” via Sixers Twitter. Milton added 13 points off the bench of his own and provided a positive boost to the second unit.

Harden was artful in his manipulation of the Clippers’ defense and was especially effective in creating looks for Joel Embiid. The big man also was terrific in the matchup. He ended with 44 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. The Sixers would have been run out of the building early on if it had not been for Embiid as he scored 15 of the team’s 24 first-quarter points.

Sixers 20-Point Comeback

Embiid appeared the only member of the Sixers locked in from the start and the team quickly fell behind. The Clippers hit seemingly everything at the start and for a stretch of time, the game looked to be on the verge of putting out of reach. Los Angeles shot 21-41 (61%) from the field and 10-19 (52.6%) from beyond the three-point arc in the first half. Philadelphia finished the half on a 13-5 run to put it within reach and Los Angeles ended with a 63-51 lead.

The Sixers looked to be a different team in the second half and showed renewed energy. They outscored to Clippers 34-22 in the third quarter including ending the quarter on a 27-13 run. De’Anthony Melton came alive at this point knocking down a few three-pointers. He ended the matchup with 13 points, three assists, three rebounds, and three steals.

The most notable change from Doc Rivers was electing to go with Paul Reed as the backup center to start the fourth quarter. In the first half, Montrezl Harrell received the opportunity and did not register a point or rebound while struggling greatly defensively in his 4:50 of play. The team did not benefit from his play and there was a real chance his minutes would have put the Sixers in a difficult position. While Reed still has some growing pains to work through, he left it all out on the floor and made life difficult for the Clippers. In his 5:12 of play, Reed ended with two points and a block. Reed was a +4 in his minutes while Harrell was a -3 in his time.

The starters returned and held control of the game down the stretch. They outscored the Clippers 58-28 in the paint, turned the ball over just nine times, and outrebounded Los Angeles 39-33. The Clippers gave their best effort, including Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combining for 50 points and shooting 14-38 (36.8%) from beyond the three-point arc.

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While you can only beat the team that is in front of you, there was still some skepticism about the quality of the teams they faced. This Clippers team was the biggest measuring stick performance and this statement win is one the team needed. The Sixers are officially rolling as this marks their seventh victory in a row to move to 19-12. With Tyrese Maxey’s return looming and the Sixers now just 2.5 games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia is slowly growing into the true contenders it was hoped coming into the season.

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