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Brutal night for Harden, Sixers’ offense as win streak is halted at 8 with loss to Bulls

James Harden had a brutal night and the Sixers’ offense struggled in a double overtime loss to the Bulls Monday.

Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Well, after seven seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid has finally lost a game to the Chicago Bulls.

The Sixers fell 109-105 in a double overtime slog. Embiid put up 37 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out a minute into the second overtime. Tyrese Maxey tried his best to pull a rabbit out of the hat with 22 points, but most notable was James Harden’s struggles.

Harden only scored five points in 47 minutes, shot 2 of 14 from the field and turned the ball over five times.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • It was a slow start for the Sixers, as they turned the ball over on their first two possessions and started the game shooting 1 of 6 from the field. Even as the Sixers’ shots began to fall they were still sloppy with the ball, turning it over six times in the first.
  • This could easily happen on other teams I don’t watch as much, but it feels like a uniquely Sixers situation to have a player start multiple games after being completely out of the rotation for months.
  • It was an ugly first for both teams, as the Bulls shot 30 percent in the quarter in the spirit of March Madness. Joel Embiid’s foot seemed to be bothering him towards the end of the first after he came down for a rebound in the same spot as Jalen McDaniels, though it didn’t seem to bother him the rest of the night. Philly held a five-point lead after a low-scoring opening frame.

Second Quarter

  • A notable tweak to the rotation as of late is that James Harden has been subbing out earlier in the first and starting the second quarter, pretty much eliminating the all-bench lineups. Tonight the second unit got off to a solid start before more turnovers allowed the Bulls to get some momentum and go out in front.
  • The offense sure was ugly, but the Sixers played some pretty impressive defense in the first half. They switched so often they were practically in a zone, even with Embiid in the game. They had impressive one-on-one moments, as Tobias Harris blocked a DeMar DeRozan pull-up.
  • Still, Philly could not stop giving the ball away, and it was not necessarily due to any extra pressure from Chicago. Most of their turnovers in the first half came as a result of a dropped pass or offensive foul. A Tobias Harris dunk cut the Bulls’ lead to four at the half.

Third Quarter

  • Embiid came out of the half with a picked-up level of intensity, but he had very little help from his supporting cast. Tyrese Maxey was the only other Sixer who was able to score for the first nine minutes of the quarter.
  • James Harden’s struggles felt the most notable. Through three quarters, he only had two points, shooting 1 of 8 from the field, 0 of 3 from deep.
  • Embiid scored 18 of his 37 in the third, singlehandedly preventing the Bulls from running away with the game. The big fella nearly pancaked poor Coby White on a fast break as the quarter ended, where he split his trip to the line, cutting the Bulls’ lead to one point after the third.

Fourth Quarter

  • Harden continued to struggle as the fourth got underway. He clanked a jumper off the backboard and was stripped by DeRozan. However thanks to some big shot-making from De’Anthony Melton, the Sixers actually had a one-point lead when Embiid checked back into the game. Melton shot 5 of 11 from downtown on the night.
  • It would only get harder for the Sixers before it got easier. Embiid quickly picked up his fourth and fifth fouls, leaving him in a pretty compromised position in protecting the rim. Harden and Shake Milton tried their hardest to get the fifth called on Milton, but the refs weren’t having it.
  • Much like the rest of the game, Philly’s crunch time offense was ugly. For that reason, it was surprising to see Doc Rivers not call a timeout before the last possession of regulation, especially after Embiid pulled the ball out, but it’s fitting to subject the ugliest offensive game of the year to five more minutes.


  • With how sloppy they looked, it felt like the Sixers should have just ran everything through Embiid in the extra period. They continued to run their sets to little success. Their last possession was fitting, as Harden was stripped by DeRozan after struggling to get around Patrick Beverley. DeRozan wasn’t able to make them pay, as his three at the buzzer was too long, and the game went to another overtime.
  • As the second OT got underway, it looked for a moment that the Sixers might be able to pull away, but Zach LaVine was able to draw Embiid’s sixth foul. After Embiid fouled out, it was very funny to see Harden just take up his role by setting up at the nail, still the Bulls’ defense was really able to zero in on Maxey. They were bound to have an off night, but I think the best thing to do is burn the game tape from tonight.
  • The Sixers will wrap up their season series with the Bulls when they play Wednesday night in Chicago at 8 p.m. ET.

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