TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors would prefer to see James Harden the scorer.

That’s because James Harden the passer has been a problem for them in Games 1 and 2 of their opening-round playoff series against the 76ers.

“It’s tougher to guard a guy that beats you with the pass than different guys that shoot 30 times,” Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet said. “So James has been dictating the games, controlling the game from the point guard spot.

“We still have to worry about Joel [Embiid] obviously and Tyrese [Maxey] and Tobias [Harris] and those guys. We feel like they’ve been making every shot. But James has been locked in from the point guard perspective. Try to close down some of those passing lanes and make things a little bit more difficult and crowded.”

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The Sixers took a 2-0 advantage into Wednesday night’s Game 3 matchup at Scotiabank Arena, where they will also play Game 4 on Saturday. If needed, Game 5 will be at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday.

The Raptors have been focused on trying to stop Embiid and Harden, the Sixers’ All-Star tandem, in the first two games. That tactic didn’t pay off as Harden’s court awareness and passing skills enabled Maxey and Harris to torch them.

Maxey averaged 30.5 points on 68.8% shooting — including 57.1% on three-pointers — while roaming freely. Meanwhile, Harris averaged 23.0 points on 64% shooting while making 75% off his three-pointers.

As for Harden, the three-time scoring champion averaged 18.0 points and 10.0 assists, which rated as second in the playoffs to Chris Paul, in those two games.

“He certainly sees all the pieces out there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “First of all, he’s extremely had to keep in front of him because of his physicality ... So he’s going in places he wants to go and he’s going to see every piece of it.

“He’s going to be the big inside if he’s open. He’s going to fire it out to the corner if that guy’s open for a three. If you rotate to the corner, he’s going to zing it straight out to the weakside wing. And he’s hurt us on the strongside of the corner, too. That one to me is harder to defend.”

But none of this should be surprising.

The Sixers have had success this season when Harden was more of a facilitator, and Maxey has actually thrived in those games.

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There was a time, however, when the Sixers wanted Harden to look for his own shot. That didn’t work out well for either party, especially during a three-game skid against the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit Pistons last month.

Harden struggled mightily in the fourth quarters of those games while teammates stood around and watched him dribble in isolation plays.

But as distributor, the 32-year-old has repeatedly made the right plays while putting teammates in positions to succeed. That has held true in this series.

One of Harden’s playoff highlights came when he fired a third-quarter bounce pass to Maxey from 30 feet away from the basket in Game 1. Maxey scored a reverse layup on that play.

Plays like that helped the Raptors realize they must shift their focus to preventing Maxey from getting easy scoring opportunities. He’s burned them while Harden has only made 9 of 26 shots.

“It’s not like the game plan stops at Embiid or Harden, right?” Nurse said. “There’s things that we’re not getting done with not only Maxey, but also Harris and also Danny Green. I mean, like almost all of their guys are hurting us … playing to their strengths.

“So I think there’s a lot to get done on the list, but Maxey is certainly one that’s been outstanding. We got to do a better job in our schemes and in our matchups.”

After increasing their focus on Maxey, the Raptors will still have to account for Harden moving the ball. Toronto does a lot defensively and will continue to tinker. The Sixers, who have vowed to simply read the defense, believe that shouldn’t affect what they do. They still have to pass the ball. If they see a double-team, Sixers players are expected to move the ball. If they don’t, then it is time to attack the basket. If they closeout on three-pointers, driving to the lane is the answer.

Not only does Harden understand that, he’s been using that approach to make a major impact as a facilitator.

“He’s a great passer,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “I think people get lost in his scoring numbers. We look at what James is doing. It’s been unbelievable.

“What James brings to us is what we absolutely needed before we had James.”

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The Sixers needed someone to run the team, get guys in space, and make plays for teammates before acquiring Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in a Feb. 10 trade.

“It’s no coincidence that Tyrese is better and Tobias, because now they’re getting shots that they have been open on and no one saw them,” Rivers said. “Now, James sees them. He’s been amazing for us.”

It’s no wonder the Raptors would prefer Harden, who hasn’t shot the ball well as a Sixer, to go back to being a scorer.