After missing 14 games, Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden returned to the floor on Monday to take on the Houston Rockets as the team looked to finish up a 3-game road trip on the right note. The Sixers had dropped the first two games of the trip and were looking to at least salvage one before returning home.
Harden helped the offense flow a bit better, but he didn’t shoot the ball well and he had a tough time on defense as the Rockets were able to hand the Sixers another loss 132-123 in double overtime. Philadelphia has finished the trip at 0-3 and will now have to find a way to bounce back when they return home for a 7-game homestand starting on Friday.
The Beard had 18 points and seven assists in his return, Joel Embiid had 39 points and seven rebounds to lead the Sixers before fouling out, Tobias Harris had 27 points while drilling seven triples, and De’Anthony Melton added nine, eight rebounds, and six assists. Shake Milton hopped off the bench and added 11 points and four assists.
Here are the player grades following the loss:
James Harden: C-
One could already see the impact Harden made in his return. The offense was running more smoothly as he was seeing things that others just can’t out on the floor. The Sixers were getting some really easy looks early on as the offense was humming. When Embiid went to the bench, the offense focused more on Harden and that was when he was aggressive with his offense which allowed him to get to the free-throw line. On the flip side, he didn’t shoot the ball well overall, and his defense was subpar as Houston guard Kevin Porter Jr. seemed to take the matchup personally. Considering it’s his first game back in a month, he will get some slack, but he obviously has to be better going forward.
De'Anthony Melton: B
A pass from Harden freed Melton up to knock down a corner triple and it looked like he was playing much more loose out there. He didn’t have to handle the ball as much so he could focus solely on being a pest on the defensive end and knocking down an open triple. He was impactful with his 3-point shooting and his ability to make some big passes in order to free up others.
Tobias Harris: A
After picking up two fouls early, Harris had to spend a majority of the first quarter on the bench. He then drilled a triple in the second quarter which was the first of four triples in the second quarter as he got into an easy rhythm. After that, he was automatic from deep. Now that he’s bumped back down to the No. 3 option on offense, he can get back to his regular role of being a catch-and-shoot guy. He was terrific with his shooting in this one which is a positive sign going forward.
PJ Tucker: D
This was a tough night for Tucker. Usually, one can feel his presence out there, but that wasn’t the case on this night. He also got into some foul trouble early and that seemed to plague him all throughout the game. The Rockets, notably KJ Martin and Tari Eason, were too athletic for him.
Joel Embiid: A-
The Rockets have a good, quality, young big man in Alperen Sengun who is going to have a bright future in this league. He’s also not nearly ready to defend a guy like Embiid. The big fella went to work against him early and often as he used his size and strength in order to get some easy offense rolling for Philadelphia. The issue for him in this one was fouling as the Rockets were going at him, and the other Sixers, which allowed them to get to the line and get easy points. The foul he committed on Porter Jr. to allow the Rockets to force the second overtime is something that will bother him for a while. Once he fouled out, the Sixers had issues generating any offense
Shake Milton: B+
Going back to his bench role, Milton looked comfortable after starting in place of the injured Harden. He was aggressive getting into the paint on the offensive end and he was also doing a solid job of getting his teammates involved. He didn’t have a great night defensively, but his offense was a big help.
Paul Reed: B-
Reed did what he does in this one. He was active on the glass, he converted on opportunities around the rim, and he played solid defense. He did also get into some foul trouble, which is normal for Reed, so that did limit him a bit. In the second half, he had a few defensive moments that really stood out as he was terrific at protecting the rim.
Danuel House Jr.: C
With Harden back on the floor, House Jr. was able to get an easy dunk off a screen. Harden hit him with a terrific pass and he did the rest. He was also able to get himself another easy bucket off a look from Harden so he will be one who benefits from his return. After the fast start, he didn’t do much else and he wasn’t effective on the defensive end either.
Furkan Korkmaz: C-
Without Georges Niang, the Sixers needed somebody to step in and provide some offense off the bench. After committing a travel early, Korkmaz converted a 4-point play and was somebody Houston had to key in on a bit. However, after that, he couldn’t get a bucket and he wasn’t great on the defensive end.
Matisse Thybulle: D
In his initial stint, Thybulle was able to get a deflection, but not much else. He was active on the defensive end however as he was moving well and swarming all over the place. In the second half, he didn’t play much as the Sixers needed offense to keep up with Houston.
Montrezl Harrell: D-
After going with Reed early, coach Doc Rivers turned to Harrell late in the first half and his minutes were rough. He was a minus-6 in 5:12 as he had a tough time on the defensive end and he missed his one shot attempt. He didn’t play in the second half of this one.