Although he has been in the league since the 2009-10 season, James Harden still relishes the opportunity whenever he gets to play back where it all started.
The Los Angeles-born Harden had 24 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds, helping the Philadelphia 76ers hang on for a 113-112 win over the Lakers, despite a monstrous 35-point effort from LeBron James.
This is the second-straight one-point win for Philly. The Sixers beat the Utah Jazz 118-117 on Saturday.
“We won, that’s all that matters,” Harden said following the victory. “Obviously, we can play a lot better, but when you’re in the game and find ways to win, even when it’s not pretty and move forward.”
The former NBA MVP is being a little too modest. Sure, Philly had its ugly moments in this one, but Harden continues to impress, especially when he plays in his home city.
Harden has been dynamite whenever he has played a regular season game at the building now known as the Crypto.Com Arena (formerly the STAPLES CENTER) in recent years. The NBA assists leader has won nine consecutive games in L.A., with Harden’s last loss in his hometown coming in November of 2019 when his Houston Rockets dropped a 122-119 decision to the Clippers.
Since then, The Beard has been on a tear whenever he suits up in Southern California. Harden has averaged 28.2 points, 9.6 assists and 7.8 rebounds over his past nine outings in L.A.
Harden attended Artesia High School in nearby Lakewood, California, where he carved out his path to NBA superstardom. Now, he’s one of the most recognizable names in the game as he continues his quest to capture that elusive first NBA championship.
The 33-year-old is doing everything he can to help get the Sixers over the hump. Alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid, Harden has helped Philly to become one of the best teams in the league since he returned from injury. Harden and Embiid continue to work on their chemistry, and it’s showing when they run the pick-and-roll. The Sixers average 10.4 more points per 100 possessions with Harden and Embiid on the floor together, per Cleaning The Glass.
Finding that chemistry with Embiid and getting back to form hasn’t been easy for Harden. He missed 15 games earlier in the season after hurting his foot, but he has shaken off the rust from missing roughly a month of action.
Since returning, Harden’s put up 22.3 points, 11.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 40.4 percent from the three-point line, leading the Sixers to a 14-5 record when he’s in the lineup. That’s helped Philly climb the Eastern Conference standings and stay in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
You could see Harden was dialed in early in Sunday’s win. He assisted on Embiid’s second basket of the game and then scored the Sixers’ next seven points. Harden also delivered when it mattered most, including scoring seven-straight points in the final minutes and assisting on Embiid’s game-clinching bucket with 45.1 seconds to go.
Harden to Embiid for the game winner in back to back games. pic.twitter.com/RvIpDxyGd7— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) January 16, 2023
Harden says even at this stage of his career, there’s something special about playing at home.
“It feels good just to be able around familiar faces, family and friends,” Harden said. “I love playing in front of them, it gives me extra motivation to go out there. You want to play well in front of your family and go out and win the game.”
The Sixers have now beaten the Lakers six consecutive times, while Harden will have the opportunity to extend his personal winning streak in L.A. to 10 when Philly takes on the Clippers on Tuesday.
If we get the same Harden we have seen during his recent trips back home in L.A., it’s a good bet he will lead his team to yet another win in Southern California.
Hear from Harden and Tyrese Maxey on my podcast recap below: