In the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, James Harden was removed from the game in favor of Carmelo Anthony. The Rockets lost despite having a 33-point lead at one point and lost by 11 to fall to a 1-6 start. Coach Doc Rivers says it’s time for him to bench his star player after this past loss, citing that he is ‘not doing anything’ during games anymore.
The “who does james harden play for” is a question that has been asked after the recent loss. Doc Rivers called out James Harden for his poor performance, saying that he should have been more aggressive and that he let the team down.
For the new-look Philadelphia 76ers, the honeymoon period is gone. The Sixers have gone plummeting back down to earth with a couple puzzling defeats after a few weeks of dominating victories and premature title celebration preparations.
As a 10-point favorite against the tanking Detroit Pistons on Thursday night, Philadelphia experienced its most humiliating defeat of the Harden era. The bench was once again non-existent, but head coach Doc Rivers made it obvious that Harden was to blame with some brutally honest words.
The 76ers lose an unforgivable game to the Pistons, who are in desperate need of a win.
During a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers discusses with James Harden | Harry How/Getty Images
Only a few days ago, the 76ers seemed to be in prime position to snare the Eastern Conference’s top seed going into the playoffs. Three consecutive defeats, though, have pushed them to fourth place in the rankings.
The 76ers’ most recent defeat, against the Pistons, was by far the worst of the group. The Sixers were outscored 29-15 in the fourth quarter after creating a comfortable lead in the third quarter, finally losing 102-94.
It was a demoralizing offensive showing against a Detroit squad that is now ranked 24th in the NBA in defensive rating. With 37 points and 15 rebounds, Joel Embiid tried his best, but Harden shot only 4-of-15 from the floor, and the bench only contributed eight points.
On Thursday night, the Sixers acquired isolation fever as they sought to play one-on-one down the stretch and showed little regard for the Pistons as an opponent. With just six games left on the schedule, Philly’s slacker mentality has finally caught up with them, and they are currently 2.5 games out of the No. 1 seed.
Doc Rivers openly criticizes James Harden.
After the Sixers’ collapse, Doc Rivers chastised James Harden.
[the bench] didn’t struggle. They didn’t get a lot of shots in their defense. I think during that stretch, it was more James [Harden] than them. So you know, yeah, it’s just a tough night.”#DocRivers #JamesHarden pic.twitter.com/5EET0SVyBS
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) April 1, 2022
It was simple to point the finger at the bench for Philadelphia’s defeat against the Pistons, given that none of the substitutes scored a single point. After the game, when questioned about the bench’s lack of output, Rivers pointed the finger firmly at Harden.
Rivers told reporters, “Well, [the bench] didn’t struggle.” “In defense, they didn’t get a lot of shots.” During that time, I believe it was more James than them. So, yes, it’s just been a long night.”
During his brief career with the Sixers, Harden has been adept at sharing the ball, but on Thursday night, he resorted to the hero-ball isolation approach that made him a star in Houston.
“I felt we basically stood around offensively,” Rivers said. “We basically played outside and didn’t move the ball as a group because they were switching.” We were shooting 42 percent at halftime, and I simply assumed the fouls would save us. We were also terrible in the first half. We didn’t play together at all tonight, and we played with very little life. We’ve been doing something similar. It’s just one of those evenings, but it’s a particularly trying one.”
Rivers is correct in his criticism of Harden.
Do you mind if Doc Rivers calls James Harden out?
“This is called coaching. Harden was 1-6 in the 4Q. … I have no problem with what Doc said. The way Harden’s playing right now this team isn’t going anywhere in the playoffs.” — @Chris_Broussard pic.twitter.com/DtMfshK9ky
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) April 1, 2022
The first few times Harden dressed up for the 76ers, he looked like his former MVP self. Philly won its first four games under his leadership, scoring 123 points or more in each of them.
However, the enchantment has worn off since then. Harden is no longer able to drive past defenders anytime he wants, the offense is beginning to appear lethargic, and the players’ body language has been gloomy.
Harden missed 10 of his final 11 attempts against the Pistons on Thursday night, and he handed the ball over many times while looking for fouls in the lane. This isn’t the superstar the Sixers acquired in February, and if Harden continues to play at this level, Philly will be eliminated from the playoffs.
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