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0-3 road trip ends with ugly 2OT loss to Rockets in Harden’s return

James Harden struggled in his return to the lineup and the Sixers were poor on both ends in Monday’s loss.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

So much for a revenge game. The Sixers’ losing streak was extended to three Monday night when the Houston Rockets took them down, 132-123, in James Harden’s return to action. Despite a career night from deep for Tobias Harris and a 39-point performance from Joel Embiid, the Sixers could not overcome foul trouble and a poor defensive effort.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First quarter

  • Man, have the Sixers missed a guy who can do this

Harden didn’t appear to miss a step, as he had 10 first-quarter points, despite only recording two field goal attempts. He made eight trips to the line in the quarter, something that quickly became a trend.

  • Joel Embiid also got off to a hot start against a Houston team that just doesn’t have the size to handle him, putting up 11 on 4-of-6 shooting in the frame.
  • The Rockets lived at the free throw line in the first. They put up 27 points in the opening frame, despite only making six shots. Their 15 free throws sum up how sloppy the Sixers’ defense was to open the game, as they took just a three-point lead into the second.

Second quarter

  • One of the biggest storylines for this team over the past couple of weeks was how would Shake Milton adjust to playing off the ball more? All three of Shake’s first-half baskets came off cuts, including this gorgeous assist from Harden.
  • Tobias Harris is certainly feeling it from downtown as of late. Dating back to Friday’s game against Memphis, Harris has made nine of his last 10 threes, including a perfect 4-for-4 in the first half tonight. His seven made three-pointers on the night tied a career high.
  • The Sixers never sharpened it up on the defensive end in the first half. The Rockets shot 50 percent in the quarter, as Jalen Green gave them the first lead of the night on a wide-open drive to the basket right before the half. Despite controlling much of the game, the Sixers went into the break trailing by one.

Third quarter

  • Despite the new half, the Sixers still had the same woes defensively. After keeping Houston off the offensive glass in the first half, the Sixers let the Rockets scoop up four offensive boards in the third quarter. The Sixers went to a zone quite frequently, but weren't able to deter the Rockets’ dribble penetration at all. The backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. combined for 50 points on the night.
  • As the game went on, the Sixers’ attack really lacked balance. Twenty-one of their 29 third-quarter points came from Harris and Embiid, with Harris’ shooting keeping the Rockets from pulling away.

Fourth quarter

  • It was a rough shooting night for Harden in his first game back. He shot 2-of-12 from the field, including going 0-for-6 from inside the arc. He really didn’t have any interest in driving to the basket, which will certainly be something worth monitoring in the near future. He was able to hit a massive step-back three with a minute and a half left.

But his step-back attempt at the end of regulation was blocked. The ball definitely needed to find its way to Embiid in some form during that possession.

  • It took them four quarters, but the Sixers’ defense finally arrived. They held the Rockets to just 18 points in the final quarter to force an extra period. Free basketball, just what everyone was asking for!


  • This one was ugly from start to finish. Like in regulation, the Sixers had every chance to win this one. Joel Embiid had some brilliant stretches in this game, but his mistakes were equally as costly. He threw two possessions away when a basket on either trip would have likely sealed the game. They weren’t able to contain Kevin Porter on the final possession, causing Embiid to foul out, sending Porter to the free-throw line to tie the game.

Double overtime

  • It was definitely the right decision to take Harden out and put Shake Milton in early into the second OT. No need to have Harden playing close to 40 minutes in his first game back. Still, the Sixers finally ran out of gas without Embiid. Just an ugly loss to cap off an ugly road trip.

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