The Philadelphia 76ers faced a tough challenge in slowing down a red-hot James Harden...and while The Beard still went off for 37 points, they put in a dogged defensive performance led by T.J. McConnell and Corey Brewer, setting the tone in their 121-93 win at home.
Corey Brewer pulling out all the stops to guard Harden 😂 pic.twitter.com/gSmZHNxhYE- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 22, 2019
Brewer, who signed with the 76ers on a 10-day contract, was particularly enthusiastic guarding Harden, doing everything he could to make life difficult for the reigning MVP, earning plenty of praise from his new teammates for his high-energy effort at Wells Fargo Center.
"I think he was huge!" Point guard Ben Simmons said post-game. "Being a pest, his energy was great. Ever since he got with our team I think he's just been great, his energy's been great. He's been a good teammate, a good person and we've loved having him around, so he's been tremendous."
The 76ers were engaged on the defensive end all night, recording 14 blocked shots and winning the rebound count 55-38, as Joel Embiid dominated in the paint, with the Rockets struggling to find a matchup to contain the 7-footer.
Embiid went off for 32 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, while Aussie Ben Simmons finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists on a quiet shooting night, connecting on just 3-of-12 from the field.
Countryman Jonah Bolden made his impact felt on the defensive end, with four blocks and four points in his 12 minutes on the floor as the 76ers improved their home record to 20-5 on the season.
Joel Embiid hustles back for the block in #PhantomCam! #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/uSsTBuC4ip- NBA (@NBA) January 22, 2019
In the absence of Jimmy Butler, who was sidelined with a wrist injury, Philly got contributions all the way down the roster with Landry Shamet adding 18 points, JJ Redick 16, Brewer 11 and TJ McConnell 12, but it was all Embiid, who took advantage of Clint Capela's absence in the paint, with coach Brett Brown telling reporter's post-game that performances like today should put the Cameroonian in the MVP conversation.
"All you really have to do, in my eyes, is look what happens when we don't have him," Brown said.
"And look at some of the first halves that he has produced that has forced opposition coaches to make incredible adjustments in the second half.
"He should be in these types of conversations, and I think more importantly, his leadership and his growth recognising [the] responsibility that he has with this city, with this program … has been at the best he's ever been for me in 2019."
While Harden still got his, the 76ers ensured the rest of the Rockets never got going with reserves Gerald Green (18 points) and newly-acquired Kenneth Faried (13 points) the only other Rockets to crack double figures as they shot just 36% from the field and 26% from three, connecting on just 11-of-42 attempts from deep.
It was the perfect way for Philly to bounce back after a heart-breaking last-second defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their last outing and they will look to continue that momentum on Wednesday night when they face the San Antonio Spurs.