Sixers-Heat Game 1 takeaways: James Harden is good, but is he enough?
I don’t even think James Hardan was particularly bad Monday night. He looked great in the first half, then tapered off in the second half while the entire team spontaneously combusted. His stat line, however, is not what fans are looking for: 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on 5-of-13 shooting.
Harden is a rock-solid No. 2 star for a Sixers team in desperate need of his playmaking acumen and patience. The Sixers were only -8 when he was on the court, while Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey were both -25. That’s a pretty noisy stat (look at who spent the most time next to DeAndre Jordan and the bench units) but Harden’s floor general status cannot be overlooked. The Sixers just fell to pieces in the minutes where Maxey was asked to run the show.
All that being said, Harden is probably not good enough to be the best player on a team trying to knock off the No. 1 seed right now. He’s great in tandem with Embiid, a dominant high-usage scorer, but when isolated as the team’s best player, Harden just doesn’t have the same juice he once did. He’s an elite secondary star — a player who elevates others, not a player who can consistently do it all himself.
When all the dust settles, this will probably be the predominant takeaway from tonight’s game. People will point to Harden’s stat line and consider it abject failure. And, sure, relative to expectations that were always too high, he does look like a failure. But this is just who James is right now. He’s a really good No. 2 guy, and not a good No. 1 guy. Pretty simple. It’s not really Harden’s fault — he’s old and beaten up — but it’s the current state of affairs, like it or not.