The Detroit Pistons outscored the Sixers 29-15 in the fourth quarter on Thursday night. It was a bad loss against a team that entered the contest with only 20 wins. Needless to say, there was plenty of blame to go around.
Philadelphia’s bench was the easiest target, although head coach Doc Rivers deflected some of that over to James Harden (18 points). The 2018 MVP certainly didn’t put his best foot forward with Joel Embiid resting and the game on the line. Harden was supposed to be “the guy next to the guy,” per TNT’s Jamal Crawford, and he hasn’t been pulling his weight.
“They brought him here for that reason, right? Like we knew Embiid was going to be the guy. James has to be the guy next to the guy, he has to,” Crawford said on the post-game show. “His basketball intelligence, he knows when to pick his spots, he knows when to score, but he has to do it. This team is built for that.”
Then, Shaquille O’Neal called out Tobias Harris (14 points) for not stepping up. He has largely turned into the fourth option behind Tyrese Maxey since the Harden trade. Crawford agreed with Shaq’s assessment, adding that Harris needs to be the X-factor for the Sixers.
“I feel like he has to be an asset for where they want to go. He has to be that X-factor to kind of take them over the top,” Crawford said of Harris. “He has to be that third scorer. Right now, it looks like he hasn’t found his place, his rhythm, he’s trying to figure it out. There’s six games left. We need James to really get going.”
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Chemistry Issues Affecting Sixers?
Prior to hosting Milwaukee, Rivers admitted that the Sixers were still getting used to playing with each other. Harden’s addition threw an All-Star monkey wrench into the equation. Philadelphia is just 16 games into this rushed chemistry experiment. These things take time.
“There’s no one thing, just better play, better continuity, we haven’t been together long,” Rivers told reporters on Tuesday. “I’ll give you an example, I thought the Phoenix game down the stretch you could just tell the difference. They knew where everybody was at, they executed well, we had two turnovers … those are the things we just have to get better, get on the same page. And, as I said, everybody wants to.”
Embiid echoed Rivers’ comments following a 102-94 loss to Detroit on Thursday. The Sixers only have six games left to figure it out before the playoffs.
“We still are really working on the chemistry. We’re working on the spacing, where everybody should be at, and it’s a work in progress,” Embiid told reporters, via Sixers Wire. “We don’t have a lot of time, but that’s why we have shootaround and practices every day to try and get on the same page, but hopefully, by the time the playoffs roll around, we’ll know what to do.”
Harden Owned Defensively by Isaiah Stewart
Here’s an interesting stat: Harden went 1-of-4 for three points on Thursday night when being guarded by Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart. He was 4-of-15 from the field for the game, including 2-of-9 from three-point land.
Stewart welcomed Harden to call for a switch and when he did, the 6-foot-9 power forward tightened up his feet and got into a menacing defensive stance. He locked Harden up all night. The Athletic’s James Edwards III did an excellent breakdown of Stewart’s switch defense. He cited three specific examples where Harden was overmatched.