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James Harden puts on a show in home debut

James Harden was outstanding yet again as the Sixers moved to 3-0 with the former MVP in the lineup with a win over the Knicks.

New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It wasn’t a playoff game, but it sure as hell felt like one.

James Harden put on a show in his home debut as the Sixers used a dominant third quarter to beat the Knicks, 123-108, Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers are now 3-0 with Harden in the lineup and improved their record to 38-23 on the season.

A tough test awaits this weekend with a brutal back-to-back. Friday, they’ll host the upstart Cavs and then make the trip down to South Beach to take on Jimmy Butler and the Heat Saturday.

Here are a few takeaways from the night.

First quarter

  • Philly sure knows how to make a guy feel welcome. On the first possession of the game, the Wells Fargo Center crowd gave The Beard an ovation on every touch.
  • It was good to see Tobias Harris confidently take and make his first three of the game. The Knicks attempted to trap Harden, leaving Harris wide open at the top of the circle. Without hesitation, Harris rose up and hit it.
  • It’s been cool to watch Harden and Embiid adjust to each other. There was a possession in the first quarter where Harden screened for Embiid.
  • Outside of Embiid — who forced Mitchell Robinson to commit his second foul with 7:11 left in first — the Sixers got off to a cold start offensively. RJ Barrett off to a strong start for New York.
  • Harden scored his first basket at home as a Sixer on a very Harden play. In a pick-and-roll with Embiid, Harden simply blew by rookie big man Jericho Sims then finished through contact for an and-one. He proceeded to hit a step-back three on the next possession. That seemed to get the offense rolling.
  • And now Sims has two fouls with 2:48 minutes left.
  • Despite Doc Rivers saying he’d like to give Willie Cauley-Stein, who is on a 10-day contract, a look, Paul Millsap got the backup five minutes yet again. Despite his struggles, Furkan Korkmaz continues to receive regular rotation minutes. You’d say something has to give on both fronts, but as we know, Doc is rigid with his lineups.
  • Rebounding is still an issue as the Sixers gave up four offensive boards. That coupled with four turnovers (the Knicks had none) led to New York attempting 10 more field goals. The Knicks took a 33-25 lead into the second. Julius Randle with 12 first-quarter points.

Second quarter

  • Doc makes me eat my words, inserting Shake Milton for Korkmaz. Milton rewards Rivers’ decision by making two nice drives and coming away with a steal.
  • The Millsap minutes ... aren’t going well. The Knicks have extended their lead to 49-36 nearly midway through the second.
  • And James Harden just took a charge.
  • Embiid picks up a technical. He was incensed after not getting a call on a rip-through move on Robinson (he made the shot any way). Then Harris was called for a foul on Robinson on the other end after another offensive rebound. Robinson missed both free throws.
  • We might be in the midst of a Harden heater. He’s up to 17 points after another three.
  • Georges Niang has struggled against Randle tonight. He has 16 so far.
  • The Sixers closed out the second strong. The defense really stepped up and a few good offensive possessions allowed the Sixers to go on an 8-2 run to close the half. The midrange shooting of Barrett (19) and Randle (16) has burned them, but they did much better with help and rotations at the end of the second. Harden with a game-high 19 points. Embiid had 13 and nine rebounds. Sixers in a decent spot down 62-55 at half.

Third quarter

  • An and-one and wing three from Embiid to start the half gets the Sixers to within one at 62-61. Harden assisted on both baskets. Ideal start less than a minute into the third.
  • Harris just looks like he can’t get out of his own way. He made a great move on Randle, took a good shot and it just rimmed out. The next possession, he dribbled into a crowd and turned it over. The very next possession he passed up a wide-open three on a dish from Harden.
  • Embiid suddenly up to 22 points after another three. Harden drew a foul on a strong drive and gave the Sixers their first lead of the game at 74-73 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter.
  • Embiid with a hard drive before the Knicks could get set on defense. He’s fouled and takes quite a tumble into the first row. He shot right up like he’s done often this season when getting knocked to the ground.
  • Tyrese Maxey starting to cook a little with Harden on the bench. A couple blur drives have gotten him to the line. He’s got 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.
  • The strong defense to close the first half has carried over. The Sixers are showing Randle and Barrett a crowd on every touch and no other Knick has been able to make them pay. New York has just 15 points with 3:21 left in the period.
  • Maxey with a nasty step-back three and the Sixers have now opened up a 87-77 lead late in the quarter. Niang has also made a pair of triples and has played Randle much tougher during this stint.
  • James Harden is really, really good. He’s been getting to the rim seemingly at will. Another and-one to extend the lead to 93-80. He’s got 24 points, six assists and six rebounds.
  • Just a thoroughly dominant period from the Sixers. They win it 38-19 and go to the final quarter up 93-81. The trio of Embiid, Harden and Maxey have combined for 62 points.

Fourth quarter

  • Good to see Tobias get going a bit here. He hit a short jumper, followed by a three and then got fouled making a nice move on Obi Toppin. Harris has 14 points.
  • Millsap minutes ... not going well. But the rest of the lineup has been really good to compensate.
  • Oh my, Tyrese Maxey. Another step-back three to put the Sixers up 105-92. Is this a Big 3? Because this feels a lot like a Big 3. Maxey up to 22 points after a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 107-92.
  • The Knicks got it under 10, but never seriously threatened to come back. Maxey canned his fourth triple on a desperation three with the shot clock winding down to push the lead back to 112-99 with 3:11 remaining.
  • Man, having Harden to just lead consistently solid offensive possessions with a late lead is so huge. I don’t need to explain to Sixers fans how big of an issue that’s been for this team. For good measure he finds Matisse Thybulle with a beautiful outlet pass for an easy finish. It’s 118-102, Sixers, with under two minutes left.
  • The Sixers truly do look unstoppable with Harden and Embiid playing together. Harden’s home debut ended with 26 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. Embiid finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Maxey had 25 points, 21 in the second half. This team might be really freaking good.