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“So Much Better Without Harden”: Sixers’ 2nd Half Performance vs Heat Has Skip Bayless Mocking James Harden

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

“So Much Better Without Harden”: Sixers' 2nd Half Performance vs Heat Has Skip Bayless Mocking James Harden

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers booked their berth as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs following their narrow 105-104 win over the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament. However, the victory didn’t come easy and the 76ers side had to work hard in the 2nd half to earn it. Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless praised the 76ers and Nicholas Batum for the win, but in his usual way of mocking a player.

The 76ers had a rough first half and trailed by 12 points at the break. They made a small adjustment and started with veteran Nicholas Batum in the second half which paid dividends. The forward was sensational in the second half and finished the game with 2o points and five rebounds, helping Philadelphia rally back and secure their place in the playoffs. He shot 7-of-12 from the field, and an incredible 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, in one of his best performances of the season.

Bayless gave props to Batum for their second-half display, but, as is typical of him, stirred the pot with an uncalled shot at former Philadelphia star James Harden. He posted on X, formerly Twitter,

“Man, the Sixers really showed me something this second half. So much basketball character, starting with Batum. They’re so much better without Harden.”

In the 2023 offseason, Harden left the 76ers unceremoniously after calling general manager Daryl Morey ‘a liar’ for refusing to offer the veteran guard a massive contract extension, which he had previously promised. The franchise opted not to extend Harden’s stay with the franchise after his dismal performance against the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs.

After leading the Joel Embiid-less 76ers to a victory with a 45-point performance in Game 1, Harden averaged 18.2 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.5 rebounds in the next six games of the series. He dropped one of the worst playoff performances of his career in Game 7 in Boston, finishing with nine points, seven assists, and six rebounds, with five turnovers, as the 76ers lost 112-88, and were eliminated from the playoffs.

After Harden’s comments about Morey, the 76ers traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers and promoted guard Tyrese Maxey to the starting lineup. The decision was a masterstroke as the young guard averaged 25.9 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and one steal, and earned his first All-Star nod.

He scored 19 points, dished six assists, and grabbed three rebounds in Wednesday’s win over the Heat, a significantly better performance than Harden’s horror show against the Celtics in last year’s Game 7. The 76ers should be delighted about Maxey’s development, which wouldn’t have been possible without Harden’s exit.

Can the 76ers secure an East Finals berth?

After narrowly edging out the Heat in the play-in tournament, the 76ers have set up a first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks. However, per franchise icon Charles Barkley, they are already through to the Eastern Conference Finals. On Tuesday’s post-game episode on TNT, the Hall of Famer said,

“To me, [the Philadelphia 76ers] are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference right now… To me, if the Sixers win this game tomorrow [against the Miami Heat], and they are going to win this game tomorrow, I’m thinking conference finals. I truly am.”

With Julius Randle injured, the 76ers will likely start the series as the favorites against the Knicks. If they advance to the second round, they’ll face the Milwaukee Bucks or the Indiana Pacers. Barkley has complete faith in the 76ers ability to beat all three teams. It remains to be seen whether they come through on his belief or crumble under the pressure.

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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