The Philadelphia 76ers could be without James Harden for a critical game this week, and one insider believes the guard’s lingering injury could put the team in a “predicament” for the final stretch of the season.
Harden has been nursing an Achilles injury that had him listed as questionable for the team’s March 22 game against the Chicago Bulls. As Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice noted, the injury has caused noticeable discomfort for Harden and may have been a factor in the team’s 109-105 double-overtime loss to the Bulls on March 20.
Harden had one of the worst performances of his career in the loss, making just 2 of 14 shots while going 0-for-6 on his 3-point attempts. Neubeck believes the injury could continue to impact the Sixers, who are now challenging for the top seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a torrid stretch through the month of March.
Concern for James Harden’s Injury
As Neubeck wrote, the Sixers have gotten some key performances out of Harden during an eight-game win streak that was snapped with Monday’s loss to the Bulls. Harden has averaged 20.3 points, 11.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds in the month of March, helping the Sixers move into a tie with the Boston Celtics for the No. 2 seed.
They may need a healthy Harden over the final stretch to gain a key advantage for the playoffs, he added.
“A knock for Harden puts the Sixers in an interesting predicament down the stretch,” Neubeck wrote. “His play has been absolutely essential to Philadelphia’s push toward the top of the league, giving them a chance to capture the No. 2 seed in the East or perhaps climb as high as No. 1 with some good fortune (and good performances) between now and the end of the season. Securing at least the No. 2 seed could have an outsized impact on their ability to make it out of the second round — with the Celtics tailing off late in the year, homecourt against Boston could be the difference between beating the Celtics and falling in the same spot as in years past.”
Sixers Face Criticism for Pushing an Injured James Harden
The Sixers have come under fire for their handling of Harden’s nagging injury. Dave Early of SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers noted that Harden was on the court for 47 minutes in the double-overtime loss to the Bulls, even though he was in noticeable discomfort.
Early said the Sixers have had difficulty all season in managing Harden’s workload and injuries.
“If Harden isn’t right, or has to miss time, this won’t be the first time the Sixers have mismanaged his workload,” Early wrote. “He began this season leading the NBA in minutes played, and was permitted to finish a game (logging around 30 minutes) after he sprained that right foot (in the first quarter of a game vs. Washington). After that game he’d receive an MRI, and miss more than a month. There was no reason to allow him to play hurt so early in the season.”
The Sixers are also facing a challenging road trip, first facing Chicago before heading west to play against a trio of Western Conference contenders in the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.