The Philadelphia 76ers found themselves losing momentum on the road in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. They had a terrific start and led by as many as 20 as it looked like they were going to cruise to a win over the Utah Jazz.
Instead, the Sixers began to falter as they didn’t play with the same pace and the Jazz rallied to tie the game at 90. At that point, James Harden reverted back to being a ruthless scorer as he scored 18 points in the final frame and finished with 31 for the game as Philadelphia escaped with a 118-117 win over the Jazz.
Shake Milton scored to give the Sixers a 92-90 lead, but the next 16 points belonged to Harden as he put the team on his back to lead the way in this one.
“I saw an opportunity,” Harden told reporters after the win. “I saw opportunities. They made a run. Other than that first quarter when we put up 41, I think they pretty much beat us in the second quarter and third quarter. So fourth quarter, they made some shots, and it was an opportunity to take and elevate it and I did. Just my aggressiveness. I had a couple opportunities that I missed so I just wanted to be a little bit more aggressive.”
Harden isn’t wrong that the Jazz had control. Philadelphia was terrific in the first quarter as they shot 65.2% and they were playing at a pace that they love to play at. Afterward, the inconsistencies popped up and they allowed the Jazz back into it.
If it wasn’t for Harden going off the way he did, who knows if the Sixers would’ve been in a position to win the game and set up Joel Embiid’s winner.
“It was a perfect time,” coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “Joel had it going to start the game, and then James came back in a minute into the fourth. I thought we tried to give him as much rest as possible knowing we had a back-to-back, but guys are falling down. Tyrese has to come out and all this, but we needed scoring, and James did it. He made big shot after big shot for us.”
Then, of course, Harden made plays with his passing. He set up Embiid for the game-winning basket with 4.9 seconds left as Philadelphia escaped with the victory.
“Then the last two plays, passes,” Rivers added. “Again, he doesn’t get enough credit for that, but those are huge passes for us.”
Harden and the Sixers will now look to build off this when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
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