The Sixers and Cavs met on Wednesday night in Philadelphia in a highly entertaining preseason contest, thanks in large part to the fact that both teams trotted out their stars for the first half of the game.
Donovan Mitchell made his Cavs debut alongside Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, with Evan Mobley the only core piece missing as he deals with an ankle sprain. On the other side, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and PJ Tucker all played after Embiid, Harden, and Tucker sat out in Brooklyn in the preseason opener. The result was a highly competitive preseason game that gave us a first look at the Mitchell-Garland pairing as well as a chance to see how Harden looked after a rough end to last season in the playoffs.
Both fan bases will come away pleased with what they saw, as Mitchell and Garland applied constant rim pressure for the Cavs, while Harden looked to have considerably more burst than we saw him with in the playoffs. Harden struggled at times to even shake mismatches late last year, but in this one, he got back to his old tricks by literally dropping Dean Wade in isolation, crossing him over to the point that Wade fell face first into Harden trying to stay with him.
It’s not quite Harden’s crossover on Wesley Johnson from his Rockets days, but it’s some vintage Harden to get Wade leaning and then hit him with the quick crossover to get the poor guy’s feet all tangled up, as they go in opposite directions, clipping together and causing him to fall headfirst into Harden as he pulled up for the free throw line jumper.
Harden rightfully wasn’t pleased with the no-call, as he should’ve gotten an and-1 as Wade fouls him with his face slamming into Harden’s arm, but no matter it’s a highlight reel play and provides a touch of optimism for Harden getting his burst back this season.