NBA: Joel Embiid, James Harden strut as 76ers visit Knicks
When the Philadelphia 76ers got James Harden last season, he was supposed to form a deadly combination with Joel Embiid.
It never materialized in the 2021-22 season.
Fast-forward to now, and the Harden-Embiid duo is arguably the deadliest one-two puncher in the league. And their strength will be on display Sunday as the Sixers look for their eighth straight win as they battle the New York Knicks hosts in a Christmas Day game.
Embiid scored 44 points and Harden added 20 points, 21 assists and 11 career-highest rebounds as the Sixers swept a seven-game home streak with a 119-114 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
Harden set a franchise record for assists – along with Wilt Chamberlain and Maurice Cheeks – and became the eighth player in NBA history to hit 70 career doubles three times. 11 of those assists brought points for Embiid.
“I think they are playing together. I mean numbers wise, that’s obviously for the best,” said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers. “But I just think they have great chemistry and it will continue to grow.”
The 76ers bounced back from 20 points missing in the first half, and they went on to win without Tyrese Maxey, who fractured his left foot. Maxey is expected to return in about a week.
Substitute Shake Milton took advantage of the opportunity to play more and scored 13 points from the bench.
De’Anthony Melton, who also has 13, of Milton, said: “I mean he’s like the fresh produce out there, so he just ate and kept going. “That’s what we need as a team and, you know, as a player.”
After an impressive eight-game winning streak, the Knicks lost two in a row to the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls.
RJ Barrett scored 44 points and Julius Randle added 29 points and 12 rebounds, but the Knicks fell 118-117 to the Bulls on Friday.
DeMar DeRozan’s jump with 0.4 seconds left was the difference, and the loss sent Barrett farting.
“It’s not like that if there’s no win,” Barrett said. “Tonight, I had it gone. It’s frustrating not being able to win. I feel like we did well enough to win that game, but we lost.”
Barrett made 14/20 shots from the field, including 6/6 from outside the 3-pointer arc, along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. More than just statistics, Barrett has continued to excel in every field.
“RJ is RJ,” says Jalen Brunson. “He was on the offensive for 48 minutes. He carried us. Especially when we need it. We just closed it out for him.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had a hard time dissecting the difference between winning and losing: the defense.
“I just feel like we’ve never established our defenses,” Thibodeau said. “It was an attacking game. It’s hard to slow down those types of people once they’ve built up their confidence like they did. Then they had some counter-attacks in time, we missed some free throws. Things can change very quickly in this tournament.”
The Knicks have only lost 8-9 at home this season, but the 76ers are 5-7 along the way.
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