How Joel Embiid & James Harden have built an offensive juggernaut for the 76ers | Ball Don’t Lie
Yahoo Sports senior NBA writers Jake Fischer and Dan Devine connect on the first episode of “No Cap Room” on the Ball Don’t Lie podcast to breakdown Philadelphia’s potent offense behind its two superstars — who still have a lot to prove in the postseason. Subscribe to Ball Don't Lie on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.
JAKE FISCHER: They beat Harden's 2-man game and quietly morph into this juggernaut and no one was really talking about that much. What would you like to do to start that conversation a little bit louder?
DAN DEVINE: Well, I think the big thing is everybody has focused on the Embiid component of it, and understandably so. The guy leading the league in scoring. There's obviously the broader MVP conversation surrounding him. Harden's arrival and their growth together has really allowed that to happen.
It's sort of easy to forget, given how much Embiid is scoring that Harden's also leading the league in assists while averaging 20 himself. And the numbers on it are just nuts on those 2-man game. I know we've talked a little bit about that. But overall, the Sixers have the best record in the NBA since the start of December.
The fact that when Harden's on the floor Embiid becomes a finisher more than a creator. He doesn't have to do everything as much. We know he can, but that's always been that fear, that question, right? If you are in a big game late in the season or in the postseason and it's the fourth quarter, can you just throw the ball into the post for your big man to create in 2022 and 2023?
And it's just such an uphill battle with the 2-man game there. You don't have to. And I think that's what gives you so much more optimism about what can happen for them in a postseason series, provided the ghosts of postseasons past don't jump up and bite the Sixers in a lot of different directions.
JAKE FISCHER: What do you think is the recipe that any potential challenger has to combat that pairing?
DAN DEVINE: The big things, though, I mean, the questions that everybody's had about the Sixers have always been about, A, what happens when Embiid's off the floor? A lot of it, obviously, is going to depend on what Harden does in those minutes, because he's going to be expected to carry those lineups offensively. You hit enough shots in those minutes, can you stay afloat?
I think teams are going to say, we know we're going to sell out on Embiid and make other people beat us. This is why Harden's there and that's the ghost he's got to exorcise, the demons that he's got to overcome, and we'll see what that turns out to be. But they've done pretty much everything they can do to put themselves in a position where you feel confident in what they bring to the table in a late game situation. It's just going to be about whether the guy who's got the ball in his hands is able to execute in that spot, which we've seen that movie before.
JAKE FISCHER: When Harden got to Brooklyn, he dubbed it "scary hours". With all your ghosts and haunted house imagery, I'm officially dubbing this playoff run "spooky season" for Philly. Can they overcome the spook?
DAN DEVINE: Listen, it's not always scary in the way that Harden intended.