Harden scored an uber-efficient 45 points in a 119-115 victory at TD Garden on Monday. The win came at a crucial moment for the Sixers as they missed their MVP candidate Embiid.
Harden’s performance was reminiscent of his all-time great moments, which he failed to replicate in similar situations before.
Coach Doc Rivers lauded his performance. He pointed out that Harden is a Hall of Famer, and his performance proved what he is capable of.
Harden joined Stephen Curry and LeBron James in reminding the league that they could still reach the summit. His signature footwork led him to achieve 45 points, tying his career playoff high from Game 4 of the 2015 Western Conference finals.
His performance was especially impressive since he had to work for every opening against the Celtics’ defense. He took advantage of 17-of-30 shots he could create, including seven of his 14 3-point attempts. He made just four free throws, which were nowhere near the double-digit attempts he averaged from 2012-20.
Despite the Celtics demonstrating a lack of respect for Harden’s heroics, he never tired in his 40 minutes on the court. Harden scored 15 of Philadelphia’s 32 points in the fourth quarter. He was so blistering hot that the Celtics’ defense on the night’s most vital possession was inexplicable. Trailing 115-114 and trying to shake Marcus Smart with 18 seconds left, Harden called for a screen from P.J. Tucker, and rather than doubling the ball, the Celtics left Al Horford on an island against an inferno.
Harden undoubtedly helped the Sixers clinch a win, and with Embiid’s return to the team, it will be interesting to see how they fare in the upcoming matches. The Celtics will have to go back to the drawing board and reassess their strategy to take on the 76ers, who have proven their mettle in game 1 of the playoffs.