James Harden Reacts to 45-Point Outburst, Takedown of Celtics

James Harden

Getty James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers

James Harden led the charge in helping the Philadelphia 76ers take a 1-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Semifinals. His 45 points, which tied his playoff career-high, helped the Sixers take homecourt advantage in the series.

After the game, Harden talked about the electric performance he had against the Sixers’ division rival.

“I haven’t felt one of those zones in a minute,” Harden said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “You know what I mean? Just to be aggressive and shoot the basketball and do what I want.

“That felt really good. … I’m capable of doing it, so it felt good. It felt good to make those shots, to give ourselves a chance.”

During his postgame press conference, Harden gave his honest thoughts on making a statement since the team played without Joel Embiid.

“I don’t need to make a statement,” Harden said. “My coaches, my teammates, what they expect me to do all throughout the course of the year was be a facilitator and get Joel the basketball and score when necessary. Joel wasn’t here tonight, you know what I mean? And we knew that going into the series.”

The only other time Harden scored 45 points in a playoff game was in Game 4 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during his days with the Houston Rockets.

Sixers Predicted to Keep James Harden

Harden is expected to opt out of his current contract at the end of the season. With him expected to enter free agency this offseason, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report predicted that the Sixers star will decide to stay with the team this offseason instead of going back to the other team reportedly interested in him, the Houston Rockets, who he played with from 2013 to 2020.

“Outside of Harden’s history with the Houston Rockets, it’s hard to tell what would interest him (or the team, for that matter) in a reunion. Harden, who turns 34 in August, is clinging to whatever is left of his prime, while the rebuilding Rockets haven’t even started their ascension.

“Prediction: Harden re-signs with the 76ers.”

Another question is, how many years will the Sixers offer Harden, and for how much money will they offer per year?

Rockets May Trade Jalen Green in James Harden Pursuit

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that the Rockets talked up their potential reunion with Harden while talking with coaching candidates, along with the prospect of adding other free agents.

“Houston’s long-rumored potential reunion with Harden, the 76ers guard who holds a player option for 2023-24, in addition to the Rockets’ chances at landing other primary free agents and top-billing trade targets this offseason, were repeated themes throughout Houston’s conversations with coaching candidates,” Fischer said.

Fischer added that the Rockets may look to trade Jalen Green for a more established star.

“The Rockets, sources said, also addressed the idea of including second-year guard Jalen Green, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, as part of a package for acquiring established star talent.”

The Rockets were one of the worst teams in the league record-wise during the 2022-23 season, so adding more established talent would help them look more appealing to Harden in a reunion.