PHOENIX — When Monty Williams studies the James Harden-and-Joel Embiid two-man game, the Suns coach and former 76ers assistant has mostly noticed how much more Embiid is rolling toward the basket instead of popping for jumpers.

“Do you meet him early [defensively]? Do you meet him late?” Williams said. “Both situations pose problems for you. That stands out more than anything. We’ve seen James in the pick-and-roll everywhere he’s been. I’ve never seen Jo roll the way that he’s rolling now.”

Sixers coach Doc Rivers reminded that Embiid also rolled a bit more than in years past while playing earlier this season with Seth Curry, who was in the trade package sent to the Brooklyn Nets to acquire Harden. But Embiid rolling has been “just so effective” with Harden, Rivers said, especially when opponents attempt to trap Harden.

“Now, if Joel rolls, that’s going to be terrific for us,” Rivers said. “But he has to mix it up, because he’s also so good when he pops and gets to that elbow area. I think they’re still trying to find what the happy medium is.”

Rebounding a priority for Harden

For a player who has 72 career triple-doubles, rebounding is the skill in that stat line least-often associated with Harden.

On Sunday, he was coming off a season-high 15 boards in Friday’s victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. Though he has averaged 5.6 per game during his career, that mark increased to 7.9 per game in each of the past two seasons.

With the Sixers, Harden views rebounding as a way to help his team complete a defensive possession. The undersized Sixers have struggled in that category all season, ranking 29th in the NBA with 42.8 per game. But in their previous 10 games entering Sunday, they had risen to a tie for 13th with 43.8.

“Jo [Embiid] is in pick-and-roll coverages guarding the ball,” Harden said, “and I feel like it’s my job and our guards’ job to go in there and help him get the rebound. Because if that’s the case, we can get out in transition and we score. That’s priority No. 1.

“We’ve been having some pretty good possessions defensively, but we just haven’t gotten the rebound consistent enough like we need to. That’s one of the things that we talk about every single day.”

Former Villanova star Bridges remains a top-notch defender

Williams recently made a public push for Mikal Bridges, the former Villanova star and Sixers draft pick, to be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Bridges is averaging 1.2 steals per game and is excellent at staying in front of his man and creating deflections while guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player. But the Suns coach said Bridges’ impact is perhaps most noticeable in how offenses deliberately try to set a screen that will switch Bridges onto another player.

“Sometimes you see it in-game,” Williams said. “But when you watch the film, you recognize, ‘Wow, they’re trying to get Mikal off of that guy.’ That’s the sign of a really good defender, in my opinion. …

“When teams manipulate their offense to get a guy off of their best player, you know that he’s on their mind.”