NBA: Embiid, Harden put on a show in Sixers’ win over Knicks; Suns fall
LOS ANGELES – James Harden posted his first triple-double as a 76er on Sunday and clicked again with star teammate Joel Embiid to lead Philadelphia to a 125-109 NBA victory over the New York Knicks.
Former Most Valuable Player Harden, playing his second game for the Sixers since arriving in a blockbuster trade from Brooklyn, notched the 68th triple-double of his career with 29 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
He also came up with five steals and proved the perfect complement to Cameroonian center Embiid, who scored 37 points, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked four shots.
Tyrese Maxey got in on the offensive display, scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Embiid said that so far the addition of Harden — a two-time NBA scoring champion as well as a proven playmaker — was working just as Philadelphia had hoped.
“Unstoppable,” Embiid said of the Sixers’ offense with Harden in the mix. “What are you really gonna do? He’s a great passer and obviously I’ve got someone that attracts a lot of attention, too.
“So you’ve got to make a decision, do you stay on me or do you stay on him? And if you want to guard both of us, with the other guys, now you’ve got Matisse (Thybulle) driving to the rim or wide-open shooters.”
Philadelphia’s second straight victory saw them improve to 37-23. They are third in the Eastern Conference and just 2 1/2 games behind conference leaders Miami.
The Knicks seized the lead early in the fourth quarter, but seven straight Sixers points from Harden put Philadelphia back in front in the nip-and-tuck battle.
An aggressive Embiid set career highs with 23 made free throws and 27 attempts.
Although Harden has made an immediate impact, he indicated he expects things to get even better when he gets more settled in.
“I really only know a couple plays, I’m just winging it, honestly,” Harden said.
But coach Doc Rivers and Harden’s new teammates found plenty to praise.
“The biggest thing was the steals, he had his hands everywhere, but I thought offensively, because they’re (the Knicks) a pretty solid defensive team, they made us really think and figure things out on the fly,” Rivers said. “I thought James did a great job of orchestrating where guys should be.”
Harden said that was a matter of “being active” and trying to be in the right spots.
“A couple of them I gambled and didn’t get, but just tried to use my IQ and just trying to be aggressive defensively. Those steals led to our easy transition offense.”
Jazz tune up Suns
The surging Utah Jazz, fueled by 26 points from Donovan Mitchell, downed the league-leading Phoenix Suns 118-114 to post their eighth victory in nine games.
Utah’s Rudy Gobert returned after missing six games with a sore right knee and non-Covid illness, scoring 16 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. That included a season-high eight offensive rebounds.
The Suns, who still own the best record in the NBA at 49-12, lost back-to-back games for the first time since dropping two on December 25 and 27.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points. Cameron Johnson and Deandre Ayton added 23 apiece but Phoenix are clearly still finding their way in their third game since losing All-Star point guard Chris Paul to a broken thumb.
The veteran star could be sidelined the rest of the regular season.