20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Harden's "Concert Tour" Overshadows Embiid's MVP Award Night as Celtics Beat 76ers to Reclaim Homecourt Advantage

Newly crowned MVP Joel Embiid played like the MVP, but his teammates--most notably James Harden--came up short as the Boston Celtics defeated Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers 114-102 to take a 2-1 series lead and reclaim homecourt advantage. Jayson Tatum (27 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Jaylen Brown (23 points, seven rebounds, five assists) led the way for the Celtics while providing further evidence that they may be the NBA's best duo: both players are versatile offensively and both players are excellent defensive players.

Embiid led both teams in scoring (30 points), rebounds (13), and blocked shots (four), but his teammates shot just 22-59 (.373) from the field to spoil an otherwise special night for Embiid. Before the game, Embiid received his 2022-23 regular season MVP trophy from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in front of an adoring and cheering Philadelphia crowd. Embiid's young son ran up to him during the midcourt ceremony, and Embiid proudly picked him up, saying that his son is a big part of what motivates him: Embiid explained that fatherhood has changed him and helped him focus on making his son proud. Embiid's journey from growing up in Cameroon to becoming an NBA superstar is inspiring and praiseworthy, and his heartfelt reaction to receiving the MVP trophy was touching. 

That being said, there is little reason to believe that Embiid is ever going to lead the 76ers past the second round of the playoffs; every postseason he gets hurt, or he is ineffective, or both, and a team that was built by tanking (instead of developing together organically and learning winning habits by overcoming adversity) falls apart at the first hint of adversity.

Many 76ers did not play well, but three 76ers make at least $33 million per year while the other players make $10 million per year or less (most make $5 million per year or less). Embiid earned his large salary during the season and in game three as well. Tobias Harris is an afterthought in an offense that either force feeds Embiid or else watches Harden brick shots and throw the ball all over the gym; Harris scored seven points on 3-6 field goal shooting in 25 minutes--but the ball is not in his hands most of the time, so he produced as much as he had an opportunity to produce.

Harden touches the ball on virtually every possession. It is not clear what it will take for everyone to understand that he is just not that guy. The people who don't see that now are like those last holdouts in the jungle who did not believe that World War II had ended. The war is over, and we know the outcome: Harden is a regular season stat accumulator who crumbles in the playoffs. The 76ers are not paying him $33,000,000 to have one good playoff game in the second round; he is supposed to be an all-time great player who can help lift a team to a championship. 

Harden finished with 16 points on 3-14 field goal shooting. He passed for 11 assists and grabbed six rebounds, but he committed five turnovers. Harden shot 5-28 from the field in games two and three combined. Yes, these two games are yet another "concert tour" for Harden: February 14 (2-14) followed up by March 14 (3-14). I have not looked it up, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that no other player on the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team ever had back to back playoff games like that. 

Adrian Dantley, Alex English, and Bernard King did not make the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team, but Mr. 5-28 did. The voters failed. Let's just be honest.

If you understand basketball, you know what a great player looks like and you can recognize a great player even on an off night. Michael Jordan did not have many off nights, but even when he did you could detect his greatness by watching his energy level, his footwork, his fundamentals, and his defense.

If you watched Harden in game three without knowing about the hype and the salary, you would not believe that he is a great player. 

Harden is supposed to be an all-time great player, but he is not really an all-time great player. I have been saying this for a decade, and I have been right for a decade. I will repeat what I wrote after the Celtics routed the 76ers in game two: "We know who 'playoff Harden' is: we see him every year, from the 'concert tour' field goal percentages to the pathetic elimination game performances. Harden is not going to dominate a playoff series against an excellent team; he is going to have one or two good games surrounded by several bad games. This is not a newsflash, nor is it 'hate': Harden's playoff resume is a matter of public record." 

There will be plenty of time to discuss the Celtics in greater depth as they advance toward their goal of winning an NBA title. While game three certainly was about Celtics' greatness on display, it was also about exposing Harden yet again. Any player can have a bad game--Tatum did not play well offensively in game two. The problem with Harden is that his resume is packed with horrible playoff games.

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 12:32 AM



At Saturday, May 06, 2023 9:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, these two games are yet another "concert tour" for Harden: February 14 (2-14) followed up by March 14 (3-14). I have not looked it up, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that no other player on the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team ever had back to back playoff games like that."

I probably missed a few, but I found these:

Dave DeBusschere 1969 vs Boston: 3-15 and 0-9

Bob Cousy 1954 vs. Syracuse: 1-18 and 4-22

Cousy 1960 vs. St. Louis: 3-17, 3-16, 1-13

LeBron James 2008 vs. Boston: 2-18 and 6-24

Hal Greer 1961 vs. Boston: 1-9 and 2-12

Sam Jones 1969 vs. New York: 5-17, 4-18, 1-8

Bill Sharman 1957 vs. St. Louis: 5-20 and 3-20

Jerry Lucas 1964 vs. Boston: 0-7 and 5-17

Elgin Baylor 1959 vs. Boston: 2-17 and 6-23

Baylor 1969 vs. Boston: 4-18 and 2-14

John Havlicek 1964 vs. Cincinnati: 2-12 and 4-18

Havlicek 1976 vs. Phoenix: 3-11 and 4-16

John Stockton 1992 vs. Portland: 1-6 and 5-19

Bonus: Billy Cunningham in his first 6 career playoff games (4 in 1966 and 2 in 1967) was 10-53 (.189).

At Saturday, May 06, 2023 9:55:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Many of those percentages are not worse than 8-28 (.179), but if we accept that list as a rough approximation of worst ever back to back shooting games by Top 75 players then Harden is unofficially just the fourth Top 75 player to "accomplish" this since 1975, and the only Top 75 player to do this other than Baylor and Stockton without ever winning an NBA title. Of course, Baylor holds the NBA Finals single game scoring record and numerous other playoff scoring records, and Stockton shot .473 from the field during his playoff career while hitting many clutch shots.

If you look at Harden's playoff game logs, you will find that he has many fine pairs of exquisite shooting, including back to back 2-10 games in the 2012 NBA Finals. His Thunder lost each game by six, turning a 1-1 series into a 3-1 rout for the Heat, who won game five to close out the series as Harden shot 5-11--so there is something for Harden fans to look forward to in the unlikely event that he ever reaches the Finals again in a role other than observer!

At Saturday, May 06, 2023 4:54:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


When Harden was asked post-game if Boston had done anything to slow him down, he responded with a “nope”. While Brogdon and others on the Celtics disclosed that they are trying to make it more difficult for him to score by being more physical, etc.

The arrogance and dismissive nature of Harden and his legendary concert tour dates reflect who he has been since his 6MOY OKC days. He has never taken accountability for his poor play and he has been a complete no-show for two straight games.

Insanity is doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Harden is who you said he was and looks to make his way into the NBA history books as the biggest charlatan of all time.

At Saturday, May 06, 2023 5:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Harden's stubbornness is matched only by his inability or unwillingness to be reflective and honest about his shortcomings.


Post a Comment

<< Home