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James Harden helped to facilitate one of the best games of Joel Embiid’s career in a statement comeback win over the Nuggets on Saturday. In doing so, however, he got smacked in the face by the ball after bizarrely leaving the bench mid-play and running onto the court.
Late in the third quarter, down 15, Philadelphia faced a massive mismatch. Denver had five players on the court, as is standard, while the 76ers had just four. OOPS!
Harden, on the bench at the time, quickly realized the mistake and sprung into action. He popped up from his chair and hurried onto the court.
That, of course, is not allowed. All players must check into the game before taking the court.
James Harden did not.
The 10-time NBA All-Star, in a moment of panic, neglected the rules entirely.
As he tried to sneak out onto the floor, Nuggets guard Bones Hyland had the ball in the corner right in front of the 76ers bench. The positioning led Harden to get smacked in the face by the ball on a pass down to Nikola Jokić in the paint.
Hyland was extremely confused by the hilariously unusual moment, and he was not alone. Even Harden looked like a deer in the headlights as he tried to pull a fast one.
At that point, the officials realized what was going on and stopped the play. They charged Philly with a technical four for having only four men on the floor.
Mistake aside, Harden played one of his best games of the year. He dropped 17 points and 12 assists — many of which to Embiid, who scored a game-high 47 — and helped lead Philadelphia back from fifteen down at halftime.
After the win, Harden called the bizarre bench blunder a “lil miscommunication.” He did not address exactly what happened, but it’s safe to assume that he either got caught up in the moment or figured that there was nothing to lose. Oops!