Key details on last night's game:
- Historic second quarter propels Sixers to victory.
- James Harden looked like James Harden again.
- Sixers won the non-Embiid minutes (+7).
The key takeaway
At one point in the second quarter, while the Sixers were on a 24-12 run with Joel Embiid on the bench which ultimately changed the complexion of the game, the Sixers kept repeatedly having Shake Milton screen for James Harden so that Harden could get Scottie Barnes off of him and go to work on Jeff Dowtin Jr.
Harden went at him repeatedly, beating him off the dribble, mostly to create scoring opportunities for Danuel House Jr, Jalen McDaniels and, especially Paul Reed, who led the Sixers with nine points over this six minute span. Harden creating easy shots is the key ingredient which would make this non-Embiid lineup work. Put enough athletes on the floor to switch everything on the perimeter defensively, then hope that Harden has enough magic left in him to create virtually everything for them on offense.
Last night, for perhaps the first time since we became aware of the sore Achilles against Chicago nearly two weeks ago, Harden could do that. And look, he was picking on a two-way player here, which wouldn't normally be something that we'd necessarily celebrate. But given how limited Harden looked against Chicago in the Achilles game, and given how out of sync he looked on Wednesday night in his first game back, it was certainly not a guarantee he could pick apart any matchup.
And to his credit if Dowtin Jr, who averaged just 13.9 points per game as a senior at Rhode Island, is to have any chance in this league it's specifically because he has a long wingspan and can slide his feet defensively. He, like a lot of two-way players, has flaws in his game, but man-to-man defense is where he's most capable.
"He looked normal tonight. He didn't look like he had any problems," head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. "Let's just hope that continues."
For Harden to look this good offensively, against a team with as much length as the Raptors have, was a good sign.