‘That’s why he’s the MVP’: Harden moves out of the way, trusts Embiid in the clutch originally appeared nbc sports philadelphia
For Joel Embiid’s teammates, getting the ball to their cornerstone big man and then moving out of the way has generally been a good idea.
On Friday night, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was grateful that James Harden took that approach with ease.
Harden’s insight set up Embiid for a game-winning fadeaway jumper that set up a wild comeback win Trail Blazers at Wells Fargo Center.
Rivers said, “Joel made a great shot,” but James Harden made an amazing read because it was going to be a fake handoff to James … who was going to (either) go or give James Was. But Joe caught it deeper than we thought he could hold it, and James cut away.
“That was such a good read. I’m telling you, there are 10 guys who could see that instead of 99.9 percent of the league who would come anyway, bring their man and crowd. … What I’m doing is , other than that he won’t get credit for it, but it was a hell of a read. So (Embiid) had room.”
Harden noted that he was “not a robot out there” and called the play “basketball trivia”.
“Don’t just run for the ball,” Harden said with his readjust laugh. “Give Joel as much space as he needs to make the shot. Most likely, if he got a shot, it was going to go in. I just tried to give him space… and he made a shot and he did it.
After a 39-point night on 13-for-20 shooting, Embiid leads the NBA in scoring with 33.4 points per game. They glass cleaningand a Career-best 64.8 true shooting percentage. Much like with Harden during his run of three straight scoring titles from the 2017-18 through the ’19-20 seasons, any situation like 1-on-1 seems very suited for Embiid.
Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Harden is averaging 21.9 points and a league-leading 10.8 assists.
“Something he works on every day,” Harden said of Embiid’s game-winner. “That’s why he’s the MVP of the league.”
Since they fell to 12–12 on December 5, with a loss to the Rockets in double overtime, the Sixers have a 74.4 winning percentage (32–11). No. 1 in the NBA And his offensive rating (119.6) is No. 2 behind the Kings. It’s hard to believe that any MVP in that era has been decisively better than back-to-back MVP runners-up.
Embiid probably slipped a point about this year’s MVP race in response to the Sixers’ second-half defense.
“I think a few plays after we went from one to five just changed everything,” he said. “The game plan was really to trap (Damian Lillard) the whole game, and he hurt us a lot with it. Once we started going one-to-five … I think I’m a pretty good defender — and Defense matters. That’s why I thought we did a good job as a team.”
Embiid is truly an elite defensive player. And although the Sixers’ team defense has often looked porous — Portland scored 71 points in the first half, including 19 each for Anfurni Simmons and Jeramie Grant — they have risen to a very high level in regular season games. In terms of defensive rating, the Sixers are 15th in the first quarter, 14th in the second, 20th in the third and third in the final period. Per NBA.com/Stats. The team’s defensive rating in the clutch is 93.2. That’s on par with the two-time MVP for the first time Nuggets of Nikola Jokic.
All that aside, the Sixers open March 5-1 and Embiid’s teammates rightly feel they are playing with the MVP.
“Joel is just being Joel,” said George Niang.