Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden not feeling pressure entering playoffs, ‘ready to hoop’


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CAMDEN, N.J. — With his first postseason in Philadelphia set to begin Saturday against the Toronto Raptors, James Harden said he isn’t feeling any pressure to perform well for his new team.

“Pressure, no. I feel good,” Harden said with a smile after Thursday’s practice at the team’s facility. “I’m ready to hoop. There’s nothing to it.”

Harden will need to be against the Raptors, who gave him fits in the two meetings between the two teams following the blockbuster trade that saw him come to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons back in February. Across those two games — both five-point losses for the 76ers, and both of which came with Toronto All-Star Fred VanVleet and forward OG Anunoby watching in street clothes — Harden shot a combined 8-for-24 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range while committing nine turnovers.

When asked what makes Toronto a tough matchup, Harden said it came down to the Raptors’ activity and togetherness defensively — not to mention having a roster full of long-limbed athletes.

“They just fly around,” Harden said. “They play extremely hard. They kind of junk up the game. They have a lot of guys that are tall, athletic, long and solid defenders. They use their length very well, and they just have each other’s back. They run around, they scramble, and they fly around defensively, so for us we have to execute, making sure we’re crisp in our passes and if the shot’s available, take it.”

That also, however, will require Harden to play at the level Philadelphia hoped he would when the Sixers acquired him — that of a top-level star who can win playoff games. Philadelphia’s other superstar, Joel Embiid, said he already knows what Toronto’s game plan is going to be: throwing double- and triple-teams at him to get the ball out of his hands and require his teammates to step up and make plays instead.

He said he’s totally fine with that, and as a result, he’s not going into this series looking to score, but instead…

Source : espn


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