PHILADELPHIA–When one thinks of Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden, they automatically go to his offense. He is a brilliant offensive player who can score at will, set his teammates up, and he can take over a game in the blink of an eye.
However, in Wednesday’s 129-126 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers, Harden impacted the game with his defense. He was switched onto rising star Tyrese Haliburton and The Beard did a really good job of keeping him in check.
Harden was a big reason why Haliburton was held to just two points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Pacers were hunting him on that end and he stepped up to the challenge. He took it a bit personally that they singled him out.
“For sure,” said Harden. “They got me one time, but if a guy is up there dribbling the ball 15 times, I feel like I’m on an island so I just had to man up and get some stops. I think I did a solid job.”
Harden also made a huge defensive play late. After he missed two free throws with the Sixers only up by one, he had a huge block on Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin that helped preserve the win.
“I had to make up for it,” Harden said. “Uncharacteristic. I missed two free throws. I had to make a stop and try and I tried to make a play on the ball, but they play extremely fast. I know they’re the number one paced team in the league, but out there playing against them, there’s no time off. There’s no relax, breaks, or anything.”
Matisse Thybulle, the team’s best perimeter defender, gave Harden his props for reading the scouting report and being able to make a big impact on the defensive end in order to pick up the win.
“James read the scouts and played perfectly,” said Thybulle. “We knew Tyrese was gonna try and get right and James would just not let him get right and then when he tried to, he was really physical with him. It was incredible. It was really good defense.”
The Sixers knew Haliburton wanted to go right while Buddy Hield likes to go left. That was something coach Doc Rivers wanted to preach to his guys throughout the entire process.
“It’s funny, the league is very much over-scouted like you really know tendencies,” said Rivers. “I thought tonight (Wednesday) might have been our single best night of taking guys off their tendencies. Haliburton right, wants to go right, wants to go right. Buddy Hield wants to go left, wants to go left, and they did that. I thought that was really good. That helped us defensively.”
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