Joel Embiid Issues a Firm Challenge to James Harden and Philadelphia 76ers Ahead of the Playoffs

As the end of the regular season inches closer, the pressure on the Philadelphia 76ers ramps up concerning a deep playoff run. Joel Embiid and James Harden will take center stage as the primary factors that dictate the franchise’s fate.

Embiid is putting the finishing touches on his potential MVP-winning campaign, while Harden finds his comfort and rhythm in a 76ers uniform. After Philadelphia fell short against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, Embiid issued a stern message to his teammates before the playoffs.

James Harden trade lifts the 76ers’ NBA title hopes

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid attempts dunk during a game against the Dallas Mavericks.
76ers center Joel Embiid dunks during an NBA game.| Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 76ers could have waited until the offseason to land James Harden, but the franchise pulled the trigger now.

Harden’s arrival immediately shifts the championship expectations into full high gear. Philadelphia now possesses two of the game’s best talents that can lift the franchise toward the ultimate goal.

The 10-time All-Star’s tenure with the Brooklyn Nets may have fallen apart, but he’s where he wanted to play all along. The excuses go out the window as Harden can compete for a championship for the franchise that he wanted to be.

As the start of the playoffs move closer, Embiid delivered a strong message to his teammates.

Joel Embiid issues a firm challenge to James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers

With the defending NBA champions on the docket on Wednesday night, the 76ers stepped up the playoff intensity.

Philadelphia went toe to toe against Milwaukee but fell short in the final seconds after Giannis Antetokounmpo blocked Embiid’s shot. Despite the loss, the 76ers matched the level of competition by showing encouraging play that could bode well moving forward.

James Harden poured in a strong outing with a team-high 32 points with four made 3-pointers and nine assists. Embiid notched another strong outing with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. After the contest, the star big man voiced that Philadelphia needs to play at that level every night, especially Harden.

“It was good, but we need to do it every night. We need to find ways to win,” Embiid said. “We need everybody, especially him, so we need to be on the same page. Like I said, we’re trying to make sure we have a chance to win it all, so it’s all about doing it every night.”

The 76ers have the talent to push themselves toward a deep playoff run. The back-to-back losses to the Bucks and Phoenix Suns are disappointing, but the 76ers know their formula for success to contend for an NBA title.

Embiid and Harden must lead the charge, but they need balanced production beyond their two stars. Tobias Harris must find consistency as the third scoring option, while the bench unit must provide reliable offensive lift.

Philadelphia holds a special opportunity ahead and must come with the same competitive fire to avoid another playoff disappointment.

Philadelphia needs their star power to lift them forward

Although the 76ers fell to the Bucks, the performance was what they needed to see.

Embiid is playing at an MVP level and will continue that into the playoffs, but it’s the talent around him. He won’t call out Harden, but the 76ers need him to be the elite offensive juggernaut he’s showcased throughout his career. The 76ers can ill-afford to have 10-time All-Star fall into his notorious big-game scoring troubles.

Philadelphia brought him aboard to provide the scoring punch and playmaking to push the franchise to the next level. Harden can’t disappear as he did against the Brooklyn Nets earlier this month, scoring 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting in the blowout loss.

The 76ers need him to be the offensive factor that makes him and Embiid the dynamic duo that the franchise can lean on to push them forward in the playoffs.

Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.

RELATED: Gilbert Arenas Reveals Why 76ers Star Joel Embiid is Desperate to Make It Work With James Harden