The Philadelphia 76ers returned to action on Friday night with their new star in the lineup and he did not disappoint in a lopsided victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James Harden made his Sixers debut at the Target Center and didn’t look out of place in a 133-102 romp over the host Timberwolves. Harden scored 27 points, added eight rebounds, and 12 assists to become the first player with at least 25 points and 12 assists in his first game with three different teams.
While the Sixers also helped themselves with 19 successful three-point shots, the arrival of Harden to the lineup is just the start of what’s to come for the team.
“For sure,” Harden said when asked if he has a point to prove in Philadelphia. “We all do. Tonight was a great start. But we’ve got a long way to go, and we’ll do whatever it takes every single day to build great habits so we are prepared when the time is right.”
The partnership of Harden and Joel Embiid combined for 61 points on Friday night, the beginning of one of the NBA’s newest partnerships. Both players excelled with one another and will now look to lead the Sixers up the Eastern Conference standings with plenty of title-contenders joining them in the race for the No. 1 seed.
Friday night marked only the first game that Harden and Embiid played with one another, and although some moments looked shaky, others got players and fans excited for the final few months of the regular season.
“It was great,” Embiid said about him and Harden’s ability to create together. “Like I said, it never happened at any point in my career, to that level. As you know I’ve always had to create for myself…But it’s not just about me. It’s also about our team.
“All the attention that he attracts or I do, it’s going to make our teammates better, and that’s the goal, because we can’t win alone. We’re going to need all of them…It’s about giving them that confidence, because when we get to the playoffs, we’re going to need them.”
The addition of Harden will not only give the Sixers a deadly 1-2 duo on the offensive end of the floor, but also create opportunities for others in the lineup. Tyrese Maxey benefitted on Friday night with Harden’s inclusion in the lineup, scoring 28 points himself off of 12-of-16 from the field.
The young guard will be excited to learn from the future Hall of Famer Harden over his time in Philadelphia, but also be ready to see his role increase as teams begin to target both Harden and Embiid on a regular basis.
“Yeah. It has to,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said when asked if playing alongside Embiid and Harden will make life easier for his other players. “You have Joel Embiid and James Harden on the floor, and they are gonna draw a lot of attention.
“All we talked about in this day and a half, two days, is spacing and being ready when the ball comes. And I thought our guys overall did that.”
The Sixers (36-23) next travel to face the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon before welcoming the Knicks to the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.
You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].
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