PHILADELPHIA — The difference between 3-1 and 2-2 in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series is monumental. Having to win two of the final three games vs. needing to take all three, including two on the road, to advance is far different.
James Harden was the biggest reason the 76ers downed the Heat, 116-108, in Game 4 on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center and evened the series at 2 heading into Game 5 on Tuesday night (7:30) in Miami. Game 6 is set for Thursday night at 7 in South Philly.
A three-time scoring champion and former MVP with the Rockets, Harden has run the Sixers’ offense well, but been more of a complementary scorer. His high in the nine postseason games prior to Sunday was 22 points.
In Game 4, Harden scored 16 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers, allowing the Sixers to hold off the Heat and overcome a terrific 40-point outing from Jimmy Butler, as well as a scoreless final period from franchise player Joel Embiid.
“Same shots (as before) — I just made them,” Harden said. “Nothing really changed, man. I made some shots. Obviously, it’s a game changer, but (I was) just being aggressive.”
Harden could increase the Sixers’ chances of a long playoff run if he can keep scoring at a high level.
“He’s adjusting based on what we need from him, whether it’s playmaking or tonight just going and getting buckets, especially based on how they were guarding him and making tough shots,” Embiid said. “He’s been doing that his whole…