Sixers: What to watch for vs. Heat in second round

Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

What to watch in Sixers-Heat: Harden’s aggression

Another “duh” moment, but all the same. The Sixers need James Harden to be aggressive on the offensive end. For two games, Toronto shaded off him and he didn’t make them pay, instead looking half-speed and half-interested. He came out of the gates on fire in Game 6, punishing Toronto’s relaxed coverage, scoring 10 points in the first quarter, and then torching the Raptors’ more aggressive help to the tune of 15 assists.

When Harden scores, it opens up his passing. When he’s not getting anything towards the rim, he becomes much more of a liability for the Sixers. He doesn’t have to score 30 points and take over games Houston-style — that’s Embiid’s job now — but he does have to make the defense respect him as a downhill threat.

That will be no easy task in the Miami series. Like the Raptors, Miami has the ability to switch 1-5 and make Harden work. Bam Adebayo just put Trae Young on ice for five games with his ability to switch on the perimeter and move his feet. Jimmy Butler is no pushover and will probably get the first crack at Harden, while P.J. Tucker and Kyle Lowry bring their own unique competitive spirt to any defensive possession.

It will be on Philly to hunt mismatches — even in his diminished state, Harden can feast on the likes of Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, or Gabe Vincent. It will also be on Harden to bring his A-game and, hopefully, have his legs. There’s not much you can do about age and hamstrings, but the Sixers need Harden as close to peak form as possible if they want to challenge Miami.