Minneapolis – James Harden He just hit a triple pointer while hitting a foul, a move that’s been seen by countless All-Stars 10 times and 2018 MVPs. Joel Embiid, his new teammate, raised both hands and met Harden in the middle for a hug.
Philadelphia were impressed to see Harden’s 3-and-one finally help the 76ers, and enjoyed their first exposure to General Manager Daryl Morey’s experience putting the two stars together.
Harden scored 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his 76th debut, Joel Embiid added 34 points and 10 rebounds and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-102 on Friday night.
“We’re not selfish, we just want to win,” Harden said. “We have guys, from top to bottom, who feel this way on the field. Great things will happen more than once. My job is to be there and add to everyone on this team.”
The wait proved worth it after Harden missed his first two games for 76 Post trade from Brooklyn With a hamstring injury. The results have been promising, especially when Embiid and Harden thrive – at the free-throw line.
Harden was asked after the match why he was known as a bad teammate.
“I don’t know why,” Harden said. “This is for the media. The media says it. I feel like one of my best teammates the NBA has seen, on and off the court.”
Several of the 76 players, including coach Doc Rivers, have spoken of Harden’s high level of communication since coming to Philadelphia. Harden downplayed the situation in terms of trade.
“Just because the current situation happened, whatever happened, it happened,” Harden said. “It doesn’t mean I’m a bad teammate. I, personally, feel I need to do what’s best for my career, help myself and be happy. It’s not about whether I’m a bad teammate or not.”
Embiid, who had 21 free throws in a double-overtime loss to Minnesota in November, was 11 of 13 off the streak. Harden was 8 of 9 as the 76ers went 30 of 36 overall.
“That’s what I was expecting,” Embiid said, smiling broadly as the two of them shared a post-match press conference table. “I’ve never been so wide open in my life. Seriously, scrolling, like I wasn’t expecting it and it was just coming.”
Karl-Anthony Towns edged Minnesota with 25 points, and D’Angelo Russell scored 21, but the Timberwolves were unable to repeat the dramatic win in Philadelphia earlier this season.
“The most expensive thing tonight, which may not be on the stats paper, is that we’ve been looking at short cuts all night,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “He came down, one pass, we try to make our home game play on attack. And more than anything, it was our insult that really let us down.”
The 76ers didn’t have Harden — or Ben Simmons, who traded Brooklyn along with Seth Curry and Andre Drummond and two first-round picks for Harden — in November.
Harden, MVP of 2018, has not played since February 2 due to injury, which delayed his pairing with Embiid. Philadelphia thinks it finally has a top two, and a strong third piece in Tobias Harris, to break through in the Eastern Conference.
The 76ers won four of five.
In Philadelphia’s first game after the All-Star break, Embiid dominated the first quarter of the goal line. He was 7 of 8 shootings on free throws and had 10 points and six rebounds in the quarter.
The 76ers used their 15-0 lead to lead 16-6 and never lag behind again.
Minnesota, after a 119-114 win over Memphis the night before, took a 51-48 late in the second quarter. But Philadelphia ended the game 15-1 after Mathis Thiebol took a heavy blow before the bell squandered a 3-pointer from Harris.
“I feel the way we lost tonight, I feel like we took steps back,” Russell said. “Tonight, we didn’t lose the right.”
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