Things were going so well for the Philadelphia 76ers. They had a 3-0 lead on the Toronto Raptors in Round 1, it looked like Joel Embiid had put some Toronto demons to rest with his Game 3 shot, and it looked like Philadelphia would just cruise into Round 2.
However, now the Sixers have themselves facing the wrong side of history as their series lead is now just 3-2 following a dishertening loss at home on Monday in Game 5. Joel Embiid was laoring through his thumb injury while James Harden shot just 4-for-11 foloowing shooting 5-for-17 in the Game 4 loss.
If the Sixers can’t recover and win either Game 6 and Game 7 and become the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead, then there is a huge chance that Doc Rivers loses his job and a guy like Mike D’Antoni could step in considering his relationship with Daryl Morey and Harden.
On ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith suggested that Harden may be throwing this series in order to get D’Antoni in there:
Is James Harden really that bad? Has he really lost that much of a step, JJ Redick? Or is it that you wanted to get out of Houston? So you got to Brooklyn, and then when you got to Brooklyn, you really wanted to get Philly and so obviously, you told Steve Nash one thing, you do another, you end up getting out the door, which is what you really want it because we know what he’s willing to do, and now you in Philly, and all these rumors are circulating. If things don’t work out, Doc Rivers gonna be gone and Mike D’Antoni is gonna be in there. Who wants Mike D’Antoni as the coach? We all know. Daryl Morey is one of them. James Harden is another. Is that gonna happen if James Harden is looking all-world? Is that gonna happen if Philadelphia’s winning…What I’m saying to you is this: James Harden. You can talk about he’s struggling all you want to. All I’m saying is can we ask the question? Is he really this inefficient? I’ve never seen it. Can y’all explain to me. Can you truly explain? In other words, all those numbers that I threw out it, and again, I’m not trying to sit up there saying that brother playing bad on purpose, what I’m saying to y’all is this, when you are devoid of the passion and the enthusiasm to do something, does it not affect your play your play? Y’all played! I’m asking.
Redick then suggested that maybe there are just miles on Harden’s body and everybody just has to accept that:
On the Harden front. Stephen A., I strongly disagree with your notion here because James Harden is motivated that the idea that he’s not fully invested or something and doesn’t want to play well, because he’s not passionate, he’s got a lot of money on the line. He’s well aware of the discourse around his playoff history and the fact that he wasn’t hasn’t won a championship. Maybe, as Perk said, maybe it’s okay just to admit that he’s got a lot of miles on his body. He had a serious hamstring injury. He hasn’t fully recovered. He hasn’t been himself physically and he’s not the same player.
Whatever the case is, the Sixers need Harden to play at a much higher level in order to close out a pesky Raptors team that is clearly not going down easily.