Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra showed James Harden respect ahead of the Heat and Philadelphia 76ers series. Harden, who was traded to the 76ers prior to the trade deadline, had 22 points and 15 assists in the 76ers' 132-97 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 6.
Harden helped the 76ers close out the Raptors and now his focus is on helping the 76ers beat the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. "He definitely changes the dynamic," Spoelstra said of Harden, per ESPN. "You're talking about an MVP player.
A guy who can manipulate the game; he can hurt you whether he's scoring or whether he's assisting, or whether he's just manipulating the defense."
Spoelstra shows Harden, Joel Embiid respect
Harden and Embiid quickly formed one of the most formidable duos in the NBA.
"They have two guys that really know how to draw fouls and do it exceptionally well," Spoelstra said. "So you have to do things with great discipline, great focus, but you don't want to back off on your aggressiveness, and that's that dance that we'll be wrestling with this series." On Friday, the 76ers announced Embiid will be out indefinitely after suffering a right orbital fracture and mild concussion in Game 6 versus the Raptors.
If and when Embiid returns, the Heat will be ready for him. "You're going to have to double him," Heat center Bam Adebayo said of Embiid. "It's pretty simple. Getting the ball out his hands, making it difficult, just giving him difficult shots.
And not letting him get in a rhythm. Keeping it where he's got to think, he's got to overthink. He's got to pass when he doesn't feel like passing. I feel like those are the biggest things." Meanwhile, Spoelstra stated the Heat will do their absolute best to slow down Embiid.
"One, I don't have that answer right now," Spoelstra said. "Two, I don't know if we'll get that answer. It's not like we're going to be able to stop a guy who is an MVP player. The point is we have to beat the Sixers. We have to make it tough on their main guys and do that consistently.
And hopefully just wear on the team and get them out of their comfort zones more often than they can get to them. "But he's extremely skilled. You're talking about somebody who has great physicality and size that can punish you in that regard, but he also has finesse.
He has shooting ability, deep range, shotmaking. He's got touch that's uncanny in the paint. And then you add that element of also being able to create and open shots for other guys, but also be able to draw fouls at any point if you just lose concentration."