The Toronto Raptors managed to punch Joel Embiid right in the gut on Monday night, handing the Philadelphia 76ers a tough Game 5 loss and bringing the series back to Toronto for Game 6. Embiid was much less efficient from the field while James Harden failed to provide adequate scoring support.
While Embiid is dealing with a thumb injury, it’s clear that not being able to get to the free-throw line is making it much tougher for the 76ers to grind Toronto down over the course of four quarters. Embiid is trying to do everything by himself, as Harden has not been the Hall of Fame-caliber player Philly traded for in this series.
Harden has taken a tertiary playmaking role in this series, as he is more than willing to let Embiid and Tyrese Maxey take on featured offensive roles. Embiid is just about at his breaking point with this new arrangement, as he thinks that the Harden we saw in Houston needs to make a return.
Embiid took shots at Harden and Doc Rivers in his postgame quotes. Embiid said that Harden “needs to be aggressive” on offense. Rivers got caught up in Embiid’s rancor, as the Cameroonian star said that telling Harden to shoot more is “really not my job.” Those are some pointed words.
Toronto Raptors: Joel Embiid is upset with James Harden after losing
Harden has been outscored by OG Anunoby in this series. He is averaging 18.4 points per game in this series, which is well below his season averages. The Game 3 overtime win was the only game in this series in which he made more than 36% of his shots. Harden attempted 13 or fewer shots three times in five games.
The length and physicality that the Raptors bring on the perimeter have been throwing Harden and Tyrese Maxey for a loop over the last few games. Harden is still capable of scoring 30 points in any given game (especially if he gets hot from 3-point range), but Toronto has done a solid job of defending him. This is much to the chagrin of Embiid.
Harden becoming an All-Star once again in this series will be a game-changer for the 76ers, but Toronto’s gameplan to keep him at bay has been extremely effective so far. Driving to the rim against a 6-9 point like Scottie Barnes is not as easy as Harden might have assumed.
The 76ers are starting t show some signs of frustration after failing to close out Toronto twice in a row. Going to Canada and playing in a hostile environment is not going to make it any easier to seal the deal and secure a victory for Philly.