James Harden’s career-high 21 assists tie 76ers franchise record

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid scored 44 points, James Harden had a career-high 21 assists in a triple-double and the Philadelphia 76ers overcame a 20-point first-half deficit to beat the LA Clippers 119-114 on Friday night.

Harden also had 20 points and 11 rebounds to help Philadelphia win a seven-game homestand and improve to 19-12. Harden tied Wilt Chamberlain and Maurice Cheeks for the franchise record for assists in a game, tying with Chamberlain (1968 vs. the Pistons) as the second player in 76ers history with 20 points and 20 assists in a contest. He is the first player with 20 points and 20 assists in a game this season.

“It’s a great company. Mo Cheeks was one of my coaches (in Oklahoma City), and then Wilt, I feel like he has all the records,” Harden said. “So just being able to talk to some of the best basketball players ever to touch a basketball is always a blessing.”

Harden’s previous career high for assists was 17 and has been equaled 10 times.

Eleven of Harden’s assists went to Embiid, who dealt the most with a single player in any game of his career. Embiid and Harden become the third pair of teammates in the last 25 seasons where one player has 40 points and another has 20 assists. They join Paul George and Russell Westbrook in 2018 and DeMarcus Cousins ​​and Rajon Rondo in 2016.

Harden’s performance, approach to the game and the developing chemistry between Embiid and Harden were praised by coach Doc Rivers.

“This is a generation’s top scorer who chose to be a point guard who still scores but is a point guard for this team,” Rivers said. “It’s hard to do. A lot of people, most people, can’t do that or don’t want to, to put it better. The fact that he does it willingly, leads the team, organizes us, that’s tremendous for us.”

Describing the 76ers’ comeback, Embiid said: “This is great for us. It just shows that we stuck together, trust each other and know what we have to do.

“We started the game softly, especially defensively, and as soon as we turned it up it changed the whole game.”

Rivers called a time-out after Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers a 108-107 lead with four minutes left. The 76ers then had a 10-0 run.

Kawhi Leonard had 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting for Los Angeles. Paul George added 22 points and Norman Powell had 21. The 76ers limited George to five points in the second half, led by a stellar performance from De’Anthony Melton.

“We knew what a good offensive team they were,” Harden said. “They caught us in the first half. In the second half we increased our defensive intensity, got out in the transition game and that made the game much easier for us.”

Before the game, Rivers said Tyrese Maxey is close to returning from a fracture in his left foot that has kept him out since Nov. 18.

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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