Charles Barkley Challenges James Harden, Other 76ers Stars After Clutch Game 4 Win

The Philadelphia 76ers were just a couple of games away from heading to Cabo. But Joel Embiid’s miraculous return (mask and all) has helped them rally to tie their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Miami Heat 2-2.

Philly is now heading back to Florida to play on the road for Game 5, and NBA legend Charles Barkley has a challenge for James Harden and others heading into it. He believes their games need to travel. Everyone knows Joel Embiid will dominate anytime, anywhere. The Sixers need Harden and company to take their stellar play to Miami.

Charles Barkley challenged James Harden and other 76ers stars

NBA legend Charles Barkley and Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden.
(L-R) Charles Barkley and James Harden | Rich Fury/Getty Images; Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Joel Embiid missed Games 1 and 2 against the Heat due to an orbital fracture and concussion, and Miami won both contests easily.

However, his return in Games 3 and 4 changed the entire dynamic of the series. He only had 18 points and 11 rebounds in Game 3, but his presence helped his teammates have big nights, leading to Philly’s 99-79 win. Embiid then dropped 24 and 11 in Game 4, and James Harden’s massive performance (31 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds) helped the 76ers edge out the Heat, 116-108.

So, ahead of a crucial Game 5, Charles Barkley challenged Harden and guys like Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, and Tobias Harris. Maxey had 21 points and six assists in Game 3 and 18 in Game 4. Green added 21 in Game 3, and Harris chipped in with 13 in Game 4.

“It (the rest of the series) depends on James, Tyrese, Tobias Harris because Joel changed the whole dynamic of the game. He’s Shaq-like,” Barkley said on the May 8 episode of Inside the NBA. “… They’re gonna have to double him. That was the difference. You just saw the difference between James getting wide-open shots, confident Tobias, Maxey, Danny Green. You have to double Joel Embiid. So, it’s gonna come down to those four guys. Can they take their game on the road? It’s that simple.”

Barkley has a point, especially after seeing how Game 4 played out. The 76ers are a different team when Harden is playing well.

James Harden needs to continue playing well for the Sixers

The 76ers acquired James Harden because Ben Simmons wasn’t playing this season, but they also traded for him so he would give them big scoring nights in important moments. Simmons faded during those games last season, and it resulted in Philly’s conference semifinals exit.

However, Harden, who was declared “done” by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, had yet to have a big night through his first nine playoff games. He scored only 20 or more points four times and averaged 18.6 points on 39.8% shooting prior to Sunday’s Game 4. The Beard also made just 32.1% of his three-point attempts.

Vintage Harden came back in Game 4, though. He dropped 31, including 16 in the fourth quarter. The 2017-18 MVP also shot 44.4% from the field and 60.0% from long range.

Joel Embiid is incredible, but it’s easy to defend the Sixers if Harden is missing shots on his own. A hot Harden changes Philly’s offense entirely, and it opens up things for Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Danny Green.

The 76ers have rallied and made this series competitive. But now the pressure is on Harden to continue playing at a high level and lead his team to the conference finals.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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