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Joel Embiid criticizes James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers must be more aggressive and strong to break through in the playoffs

PHILADELPHIA — After acquiring James Harden at the trade deadline, the Philadelphia 76ers hoped this would finally be the year they broke through to the conference finals and beyond in the NBA playoffs. .

Instead, for the fourth time in five years, Philadelphia saw its season come to an end in the second round on Thursday night, losing 99-90 to the Miami Heat. Harden was not a factor in the game, taking only nine shots, two of them in the second half, and scoring 11 points.

That prompted Joel Embiid to say that the 76ers didn’t get the version of Harden who won the NBA MVP award and finished in the top three in voting three other times, in the transaction, and that he, and the rest of the 76ers, they weren’t aggressive enough throughout the series.

“Ever since we got him, everyone was expecting Houston’s James Harden,” Embiid said. “But it’s not him anymore. He’s more of a playmaker. I thought sometimes he could have been, like all of us, more aggressive. All of us, whether it’s Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [ Harris] or those who come off the bench.

“And I don’t just mean offense. I mean, you know, offense and defense as a whole. I didn’t think we were good defensively as a team. They took advantage of a lot of things that we tried to do defensively. And then , offensively, everyone being really on the same page, obviously, just having probably what, three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn’t a long time. … I don’t think we played our best basketball.” .

The 76ers certainly didn’t play their best basketball in Games 5 and 6 of this series, as the Heat successfully took them off the court twice in a row to close out the series after Philly won Games 3 and 4 here at Wells Fargo. Center to even the contest.

Throughout a wide-ranging interview, which served as both a postgame discussion and an exit interview for the upcoming offseason, Embiid said the loss could not be pinned on any one player and that it was a moment that required everyone in list will look in the mirror and look for ways to improve.

“Everyone has to get better,” Embiid said. “It’s not just about me or [Harden]. From 1 to 15, there is a reason we lost to Miami. That means we weren’t all good enough. So we all have to improve.”

Additionally, Embiid reaffirmed his affection for Heat star Jimmy Butler, his teammate for a few months here three years ago before joining Miami that offseason.

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The Miami cast beat the Sixers 99-90, closed the series 4-2 and entered the next stage of the NBA Playoffs. Butler had 32 points and Strus had 20 points. Maxey and Embiid each had 20 in Philadelphia.

In fact, it was three years ago on Thursday that Philadelphia’s season ended in Game 7 in Toronto on a shot by Kawhi Leonard, the only time Embiid and Butler played together in the playoffs. Embiid admitted that he wished he had more opportunities to play in the postseason with Butler.

“Obviously that’s my type,” Embiid said. “That’s my brother. Oh man, it’s tough. But I’m so proud of him. He’s playing at an unreal level right now. He’s something else right now. I’m proud he’s at this level, carrying them around and so what they’ve been able to do. They’ve had ups and downs all season. Players were missing, they’re not healthy, and yet they found a way to be the No. 1 team in the East, and to be able to come in and do what they did, they deserve a lot Credit. They’ve got a great team. And obviously a great coach and a great offensive front. So a lot of credit to them.”

“Like I said, I’m happy for him. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t wish he was my teammate. I still don’t know how we let him go. I wish I could have gone into battle with him. is. I just have to keep trying to reach that goal.”

Although Embiid isn’t playing with Butler, he is playing with Harden, who saw another disappointing postseason end with his disappearing act in Game 6. Harden took just two shots in the second half, with the second coming very late in the fourth quarter, when the match was already decided.

When asked what made it disappear offensively, Harden said, “We ran our offense. The ball just didn’t come back to me.”

But when it came to his future in Philadelphia, Harden had something else to say. With a $47 million player option this offseason, Harden has the option to exercise it and secure that money, exercise it and extend it with the 76ers, or decline it and sign elsewhere or sign a new deal.

Whichever option he chooses, however, Harden said he will choose to play here.

“I’ll be here,” Harden said.

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