Harden gives Houston Rockets another thrilling win over Sixers, 123-132

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Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) shoots a three point basket as Houston Rockets guard Daishen Nix defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

In his return to the court after a foot injury and his debut in Houston as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, James Harden wanted desperately to recapture some of the magic that he routinely created as the second-highest scorer in Rockets’ franchise history. Unfortunately for him and the Sixers, tonight’s double-overtime thriller was not his night.

The Beard finished with just 21 points on 4-19 shooting from the field, adding in seven turnovers to concoct the perfect recipe for an absolute stinker of a game. Still, despite his wayward marksmanship and questionable decision-making on the night, his presence was sorely missed, and the Sixers’ offense was palpably stagnant without him controlling the offense.

Tobias Harris continued his hot streak with an efficient 27 points on just 15 shots, including an absurd seven 3-pointers poured in with just eight attempts. He’s done an exquisite job proving his worth in the last eight games, the majority of which he played without Harden and Tyrese Maxey.

Joel Embiid looked absolutely dominant tonight against a young and small Rockets center rotation. He bullied his way to the line 17 times and routinely minced up Houston’s defense for easy midrange pull-ups. He finished with 39 points before fouling out in overtime.

Philly got plenty of offense against an inexperienced and often discombobulated Rockets team, but the team’s sluggishness on defense got the better of them in the end. Houston has a deep collection of young talent, most of which are upper-echelon athletes, and the Sixers struggled to keep the Rockets’ ball handlers from getting two feet in the paint all night.

Jalen Green finished with 27 points on 20 shots, including ten trips to the stripe, repeatedly carving his way into the lane to create for himself or his teammates. Kevin Porter Jr. added 24 points as well. Embiid, P.J. Tucker, and Paul Reed did all they could trying to erase defensive mistakes on the backside, but Houston’s penetration proved to be too much.

The Sixers did themselves no favors with some extremely poor late-game execution. Between untimely turnovers — mostly unforced errors born out of sheer apathy or foolishness that added up to seven cough-ups between the two overtime periods and the last three minutes of regulation — and Harden taking a multitude of ill-advised shots in search of another game-winner in H-Town, the Sixers shot themselves in the foot. All Houston had to do was wait for them to bleed out, and they did so perfectly in a trap game that was as infuriating to watch as it was entertaining.