James Harden to sit out Sixers’ matchup with Heat

Harden to sit out Sixers’ meeting with top-seeded Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

James Harden will sit out Saturday night’s matchup between the two teams currently at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Harden (left hamstring injury recovery) was the only Sixer on the 1:30 p.m. ET injury report for a road matchup with the Heat (8 p.m./NBCSP) other than players with the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League.

He played 36.4 minutes per contest over the Sixers’ 4-0 stretch since his debut last Friday. Before that, Harden’s last outing was Feb. 2. He missed the final three games of his Nets tenure with left hamstring tightness.

The backcourt of Harden and Tyrese Maxey has been outlandishly effective for the Sixers thus far. Over the past four games, both players have scored exactly 107 points. Harden has done so on 49 field-goal attempts, Maxey on 57.

Shake Milton replaced Harden when the 32-year-old got into foul trouble Friday night and played well in the Sixers’ comeback win over the Cavs, scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. We’ll see if he receives his first start of the calendar year Saturday against the Heat, who lead the Sixers by two games at 42-22. Miami sports a 21-7 record at FTX Arena and is the only East team with single-digit home losses.

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It’s a difficult game for the Sixers on paper at first glance, although it’s unclear which Miami players will suit up. The Heat ruled out Kyle Lowry (personal reasons), Markieff Morris (return to competition reconditioning) and Victor Oladipo (right knee injury recovery). Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin, Max Strus and P.J. Tucker were all listed as questionable with injuries.

DeAndre Jordan is expected to be available. If the veteran big man does make his Sixers debut, it won’t be alongside Harden, his teammate last season on the Nets.

“I think he fits in well with us,” Harden said of Jordan. “He’s a vet that’s been on some really good teams and it feels like he hasn’t accomplished his goal yet as far as winning a championship, so he has an opportunity to do it here. The system is pretty easy. Just go out there, rebound the basketball, communicate defensively, and we’ll do a good job of giving him the basketball for some easy dunks. But he has the right mindset.”

The Sixers haven’t found anything dependable at backup center since dealing away Andre Drummond in their trade for Harden, although head coach Doc Rivers liked how a small lineup with Tobias Harris and Georges Niang in the frontcourt played against Cleveland.

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Joel Embiid still appears set to start. The last time the Sixers were without Harden, Embiid scored 42 points in a road win over the Bucks.

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