The individual success of Joel Embiid and James Harden has been great for the 76ers.
“They’re doing things to make the team better, and excelling individually,” coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center.
“That’s the secret,” Rivers continued. “There’s a lot of guys that do well individually on their team, and their team doesn’t win. These guys are doing it in a way where they’re doing it and still helping the team win games, making each guy on the team better because of them.”
With Embiid and Harden leading the way, the Sixers took a 44-22 record into their matchup with the Wizards. The Eastern Conference’s third-place team was two games behind the second-place Boston Celtics with 16 remaining in the regular season.
Embiid is on pace to win his second consecutive scoring title. And Harden is on pace to win his second assist title. His first one came in 2017 with the Houston Rockets.
A pair of teammates haven’t won those titles in the same season since 1982 when the San Antonio Spurs’ George Gervin won the scoring title and Johnny Moore led the league in assists per game.
The Spurs won the Western Conference’s Midwest Division that season with a 48-34 record. They advanced to the conference finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers ended up defeating the Sixers in six games in the NBA Finals.
Forty-one seasons later, Embiid is averaging a league-best 33.4 points, just ahead of Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Dončić, the league’s second-leading scorer at 33.0 points per game.
Harden is the league’s assist leader with an average of 10.8. Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton is second at 10.4.
“Harden and Embiid are the catalyst for this group,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Embiid is going to require a lot of attention. So in doing that, [his teammates] have opportunities.”
Washington wanted to minimize Embiid first. But they knew that was going to be a tough task. Not only is Embiid the league’s leading scorer, he averaged 37.2 points and shot 61.5% on three-pointers in his previous five games.
“I think he’s uplifting everybody,” Unseld said. “Harden is 25 [points] a night. [Tyrese] Maxey is 24 a night.
“So those three combined are a shade under 90 points. It’s a lot to account for.”
Read More: Excelling individually, Joel Embiid, James Harden catapult Sixers to Eastern 2023-03-13 02:48:28