NEW YORK — James Harden is making sacrifices.
The time the 76ers played without key players this season was beneficial.
And the Brooklyn Nets just might have been the worst team in the NBA playoffs.
Those three things stood out Saturday as the Sixers completed a first-round sweep of the Nets with a 96-88 Game 4 victory at the Barclays Center.
As he often does, Harden played a major role in the outcome of the Sixers’ victory. The point guard finished with 17 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds in the series-clinching win.
But Harden has reinvented himself this season. It’s actually the third time he’s done so over his 14-year career.
Harden was a standout sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder during his first three seasons. Then he became a three-time scoring champion and 2018 MVP during his eight seasons as a Houston Rocket. In Brooklyn, he was part of the three-headed monster with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And now with the Sixers, the future Hall of Famer plays the role of a facilitating second fiddle to Joel Embiid.
That’s a role many players of his stature would balk at. But Harden is focused on winning his first NBA title. He proved that by taking a $15 million pay cut so the Sixers could sign P.J. Tucker and Daniel House Jr. this offseason.
“I told myself this year, I’m all in on sacrifice,” Harden said. “Whether it’s the money or my role, just letting everything go and just sacrificing and see what it give me.”
On Saturday, Harden made 4 of 18 shots while struggling to finish at the rim. He made just 9 of 34 two-point shots during the opening-round series against Brooklyn.
“It’s just playing different,” Harden said. “Playing different styles, and tonight having way more opportunities. … I’m usually just setting people up. There’s a lot more attacks, attacks, attacks throughout the course of a 40 game. I had plenty of opportunities. I just didn’t [make them]. … all in all, a great series.”
Harden had a plenty of scoring opportunities because Joel Embiid missed the game with a sprained right knee.
Excelling without Embiid
Playing without Embiid and several other key players is nothing new for the Sixers, especially not this season. In one key stretch, the Sixers were without Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey.
One can argue that playing with an undermanned roster during several portions of this season helped the Sixers Saturday. It meant they knew how to win a big game without Embiid.
“I think we did benefit from it,” Maxey said. “A lot of guys missed time. I missed a lot of time. James missed a lot of time. The big fella didn’t miss that much time, but he did miss time.
“Joel missed time, and guys had to step up.”
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Paul Reed, who started in place of Embiid, and reserve guard De’Anthony Melton stepped up their games on Saturday.
Reed had 10 points and 15 rebounds, one steal, and two assists. Melton had 15…
Read More: Takeaways from Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 4 win over Brooklyn Nets 2023-04-23 12:00:00