The Weekly Run It Back: James Harden ‘hurting,’ Sixers drop 3 of 4

Mar 27, 2023 - 12:30 AM
<a href=Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns" src="" />
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to Run It Back! In this weekly series, we will summarize the week overall and recap each Sixers game from the previous week (Sunday to Saturday).

The week started for the Sixers on Monday night hosting the Chicago Bulls for the first leg of a home-and-home. After regulation and two overtimes, the hosts fell 109-105 to the Bulls in what was most notably a horrendous game for James Harden — likely the worst he’s played in a Sixers jersey. After the game in which he played 47 minutes, head coach Doc Rivers revealed that Harden was dealing with left Achilles soreness and was “hurting”. The injury kept Harden on the sideline for the rest of the week’s matchups.

The Sixers hit the road for the rest of the week, notching a commanding 116-91 victory over the Bulls in their second contest of the week. Joel Embiid sat for the entirety of the second half for what was first reported as “score differential” but later was revealed to be calf soreness. Nevertheless, the big man looked fine by Friday, dropping 46 points on the Golden State Warriors. It wasn’t enough to get the Sixers the win, but definitely a sigh of relief to see him look healthy and comfortable. The week continued to go downhill for the Sixers as a flat effort earned them their second straight loss at the hands of the Phoenix Suns to close out the week.

The 49-25 Sixers are currently third in the Eastern Conference, and their road to the end of the regular season isn’t about to get any easier. Philadelphia kicks off the upcoming week still on the road, traveling to take on Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets at 9:30 p.m. EST Monday night.

Chicago Bulls at Sixers

Result: L, 109-105, 2OT

Bell Ringer: De’Anthony Melton

Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sixers win streak was cut short at eight games with the hosts falling 109-105 to the Chicago Bulls in South Philadelphia on Monday night. This was frankly an ugly game that absolutely no one was asking for overtime in — let alone double overtime. The tone for the game was set early with a riveting 22-17 Sixers score line after a first frame full of turnovers and shoddy shooting from both teams. Philadelphia continued to rack up turnovers, mostly self-inflicted dropped passes or offensive fouls, allowing the Bulls to take a narrow four-point lead headed into the half. Embiid nearly singlehandedly kept the Sixers in it in the third, scoring 18 of his 37 points in the period, and hot shooting from long range from De’Anthony Melton in the fourth pushed the game to overtime. In the second overtime period, Embiid fouled out, and the Sixers just couldn’t get the job done without the big man.

This was a most-notably horrendous game for Harden, arguably the worst he’s played for Philadelphia. Through three quarters, he only had two points, shooting 1 of 8 from the field, 0 of 3 from deep. For some reason, despite this and later reports that Harden was dealing with Achilles soreness throughout, he was left in the game and played a whopping 47 minutes of this contest. He ended up with five points after going 2 of 15 from the field and 0 of 6 from three and committed five costly turnovers throughout.

Sixers at Chicago Bulls

Result: W, 116-91

Bell Ringer: De’Anthony Melton

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers bounced back after Monday’s loss by throttling the Chicago Bulls 116-91 Wednesday night. Embiid put up just 12 points before sitting the entire second half due to “score differential” that was later reported to actually be a right calf strain.

Speaking of injuries, the Sixers were without Harden, dealing with Achilles soreness following Monday’s contest, as well as Jalen McDaniels, who is still suffering from a hip injury. P.J. Tucker returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with ankle soreness.

In this one, however, it really didn’t matter who was out. The Sixers were dominant from the jump and led by 28 by halftime. Melton had a game-high 25 points along with four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Maxey scored 21 points and shot 4 of 8 from downtown, and Harris nearly had a triple-double with 20 points, nine boards and eight assists. This was a great game for Harris, who seems to be on an upswing segment of his up-and-down season.

Sixers at Golden State Warriors

Result: L, 120-112

Bell Ringer: Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images

The Sixers limped into Saturday’s contest at the Golden State Warriors, still without Harden and McDaniels, and with Danuel House, Jr., an additional late scratch.

The Warriors really had no answer for the dominance of Embiid. After just one frame, Embiid already had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Golden State, however, dominated the Sixers from the perimeter in the first half, sinking nine triples leading to a two-point lead at the break. The teams traded narrow leads throughout the third until the Sixers started to pull away towards the end of the frame, entering the final period up nine, but the Warriors weren’t going down without a fight. The Warriors’ rapid fire from beyond the arc ultimately was enough to counter the massive 46-point night from Embiid. Golden State took a narrow lead late in the fourth and a few wasted possessions for the Sixers were the nail in the coffin on this one for Philadelphia.

The Sixers fell 120-112 in San Francisco, cutting the Sixers’ road winning-streak at seven games. Maxey and Harris were the only other real offensive contributors for the Sixers in this one and it simply isn’t enough. It’s great to have your MVP-caliber player drop 46, but it means nothing if he doesn’t have the support to get the game over the finish line for the win.

Sixers at Phoenix Suns

Result: L, 125-105

Bell Ringer: Tyrese Maxey

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Sixers dropped the second half of a back-to-back in Phoenix Saturday, 125-105, for their second straight loss. The Sixers had the toughest strength of schedule coming out of the All-Star break. They also play an inordinate amount of road games and some brutal back-to-backs. Unfortunately, the stretch run slate appears to be catching up.

While Jalen McDaniels was available for the first times since Monday, the Sixers were again without James Harden and Danuel House Jr.

This one wasn’t even as close as it might have appeared. The Sixers were down just six entering the fourth quarter but it wasn’t much of a contest with Philadelphia, well, looking like they were on the end of a road back-to-back. It certainly didn’t help that the bench was outscored 53-17. Tyrese Maxey was the lone bright spot in a flat effort from the Sixers in this one, scoring a game-high 37 points on 14 of 19 shooting, but the rest of the team failed to mount sufficient offense. Joel Embiid had 28 points, despite not being at his sharpest, shooting 8 of 19.

Devin Booker led the way for Phoenix, putting up 29 points, shooting 9 of 18 from the floor.

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