Sixers’ James Harden Blasts Critics in Wake of Joel Embiid Injury

james harden

Getty James Harden is a Sixer, but should he be?

James Harden only averaged 19 points per game in Round 1. The Beard only got aggressive when teammates and coaches challenged him. He’s only in Philadelphia to play second fiddle to Joel Embiid.

Yes, Harden has heard all the criticism as the Sixers prepare for the Eastern Conference semifinals in Miami. The 10-time All-Star doesn’t necessarily pay attention to it, but he’s not dumb to it. Harden knows he’ll need to function more as the primary scorer with Joel Embiid missing in action for at least Game 1 and Game 2.

Not a problem. Still, don’t expect him to stop facilitating and become one-dimensional. Everyone needs to step up and sacrifice for the good of the team.

“At this point, man, it’s a sacrifice to win games,” Harden told reporters on Sunday. “I’ve been scoring. When I scored 30-something and lose, people are saying something. When I score 19 and we win, they are saying something. So at this point, I just do whatever it takes to win the game. I’m sacrificing. I’m the ultimate team player.

“So now, Joel’s out. I got to be more aggressive and score the basketball, get to the basket, and make the right decision. It’s no different than what I’m used to.”

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Everybody Counting Sixers Out in Round 2

The Heat jumped from 3.5-point betting favorites over the Sixers all the way up to 8.5 as soon as news of Embiid’s orbital bone fracture was announced. There are a number of people predicting a Miami sweep in the second round. But the guys in the Philly locker room can’t think that way. They’ll take on the underdog role with great pride in Game 1 on Monday night.

“I think everybody is counting us out, doubting us because Joel is out or whatever the case may be,” Harden said. “We focus on what’s in house and how we can get better.”

“We have a lot of guys in this room that have experience and are going to go out there and play hard every night and the show must go on,” Georges Niang said. “And obviously, like I said, we’re really going to miss Joel but that can’t stop us from going down there and getting Game 1 and Game 2.”

Doc Rivers Comments on Playing Embiid vs. Toronto

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has been under fire in recent days for leaving Embiid in the game late in the fourth quarter versus Toronto. The outcome of Game 6 was no longer in doubt with Philly up by 29 points and roughly 4 minutes showing on the clock. But Rivers kept his starters in, a decision that some blame for Embiid getting hurt when Pascal Siakam drove an elbow into his face on a drive.

“Well, it wasn’t four minutes left and 29 points [from the run]. He scored the bucket to make it 29,” Rivers told reporters, via Rich Hofmann. “In the playoffs, just so everybody knows, so we can not talk about blame and talk about winning this next series.”

The injury came right after Embiid had slammed home a highlight-reel “airplane dunk.” Rivers gave more context to the decision to leave Embiid in while defending his decision.

“After Joel made the shot and did the airplane if you watch the game, I turned and said, ‘I’m calling a timeout on the next possession.’ I’m not upset that he was in,” Rivers said. “You can make that a big deal if you want. But just go back and look at every team and every game and their guys in until about 4, 3-minute mark. That’s what it is.”

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