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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Harden's Concert Tour Begins

Last night, the Philadelphia 76ers took a 2-0 lead in their first round series versus the outmatched Brooklyn Nets. The Nets play hard and they may win a game after the series shifts to Brooklyn for the next two games, but the Nets do not have enough size or talent to beat the 76ers four times.

James Harden is a very forward-thinking person. He knows that his "concert tour" is projected to begin in the second round--most likely versus the Boston Celtics--so he is already preparing now for his inevitable playoff choking. Harden is averaging 15.5 ppg on .324 field goal shooting versus Brooklyn, with 11 field goals made and nine turnovers committed. Harden achieved his full second round form in game two, with eight points, seven assists, five turnovers, and 3-13 field goal shooting. Nearly twice as many turnovers as field goals made will be a difficult standard to maintain, but I believe that Harden can do it. In 14 playoff games as a 76er, Harden has shot 75-192 (.391) from the field while committing 59 turnovers--but in his six most recent playoff games as a 76er, Harden has made 32 field goals and committed 30 turnovers, so if he can muster just two more turnovers than field goals made in game three at Brooklyn then he will have accomplished a seven game postseason stretch--the equivalent of a full playoff series--during which he had the same number of field goals made and turnovers committed.

I am not sure what a "stats guru" who specializes in "advanced basketball statistics" concludes from such numbers, but the rest of us who are not baffled and blinded by nonsense understand what we are witnessing during Harden's playoff career.

Joel Embiid is the dominant player in this series. The Nets are double-teaming him, and that is opening up easy opportunities for his teammates, although Harden is finding it easier to commit turnovers than make open shots. As I predicted, Tyrese Maxey (23.0 ppg on .516 field goal shooting) is picking up the slack while Harden does his usual disappearing act, and that will be sufficient to dispatch the Nets without too much difficulty.

The real fun begins when the 76ers face the Celtics. In Harden's first two second round appearances after moving to the Eastern Conference, he has averaged 15.2 ppg on .374 field goal shooting; he has a good chance of "beating" those numbers (but not in the way that 76ers fans hope) versus the Celtics' stifling defense.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:31 PM



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