PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers started off the 2023 NBA playoffs on the right foot. Joel Embiid and James Harden paved the way for a blowout win against the Brooklyn Nets. The Beard, in particular, shined brightly against his former team in the Sixers’ 121-101 win.

Harden’s production in this series is one of the most important things for the Sixers. He got off to an impressive start with 23 points and 13 assists. His efforts helped the Sixers make a franchise-record 21 threes in a postseason game. Even after a dominant game, he found room to make a joke about one area of the game where he struggled.

“Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t make a layup but that’s the least of my worries,” Harden said when asked how his body is holding up following an injury-riddled regular season. “But yeah, my legs, my body feels powerful, feels strong. There was a stint where I played, I think, 13 minutes straight from the end of the first quarter and then the whole second quarter. And I felt really good. So the work that I put in, this is the reason for it.”

Harden’s 1-8 shooting inside the arc was covered up by his amazing 7-13 shooting from beyond it. The Sixers outscored the Nets by 20 in the 36 minutes he played, the highest mark of the game, as he dazzled and shot the ball with tremendous efficiency. With Embiid facing endless double teams, shooting was the obvious counter.

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“It was something they were giving us,” Harden said. “They just doubled Jo the whole game basically, tried their best to not let him get going. He still had [26 points] but I think he did a really good job of just making easy passes and we knocked shots down.”

Not only did Harden work well with Embiid amidst all the defensive pressure he faced but he got the team going in his minutes on the bench. It’s just one game but if Harden is able to impact the game at the level he did in Game 1, he could start to dispel the narrative of himself as a playoff choker.

“They were double-teaming Joel so somebody else gotta make shots and be aggressive,” James Harden said. “Just put the work in and you live with the results…and you gotta make some shots.”