Sixers prove they can win ugly, while Tobias Harris proves he can be counted on for big shots
Can the most memorable cube in a game be one that never happened?
This is not a question that is asked often, but it was during the conference on Monday Philadelphia 76ers I play against him toronto raptors. The no basket in question happened when De’Anthony Melton picked up a loose ball and fired a cross pass to tobias harris in the weak side corner. Harris drilled a catch-and-shoot jumper and landed square on scotch barnes, which was rolling on the ground like a car that had just turned. There was a 4-point play opportunity.
The Sixers came within a Harris free throw of extending their lead to seven with 90 seconds remaining in overtime. The game, for all practical purposes, was over.
Except it wasn’t. Raptors coach Nick Nurse contested the foul call, and after review, the referees ruled that PJ Tucker had placed an illegal screen on the Barnes lockdown. The refs not only cleared the foul, but also erased Harris’s points. And after the game, the Sixers were upset.
“You can’t take two plays back in one play,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “The foul was from PJ under the basket, right? The guy ran out and fouled Tobias. That shouldn’t have anything to do with the play. That is the second action. They missed the first one, you can’t call that one, that’s not the call. The call was in the second action. So unless you can put them together, maybe you can, I just need you to explain it to me.”
Essentially, Rivers was confused as to why Tucker’s screen was reviewable. In his real-time explanation of the public address system, official Pat Fraher called it “an offensive foul that occurred near the play just before the defensive foul.” Even if that high-leverage investment was the correct interpretation, the Sixers had already been visibly frustrated with arbitrage for most of the game.
“That was probably the most ridiculous game I’ve ever been a part of,” Sixers star. Joel Embiid said. And when asked to expand on what he found so ridiculous, Embiid said with a smile: “You can figure it out.”
While the basket technically didn’t happen, the sequence and immediate aftermath showed why the Sixers held on in “such a ridiculous game.” Harris was lifted off the ground by Embiid and Tucker. Harris’ teammates then pummeled his chest, celebrating not just a dagger throw that gave the Sixers an ugly but important victory.
However, it also felt like an acknowledgment to a player who is doing his best to adapt to a role that doesn’t come naturally to him.
“He was great. He’s a star in his role,” Embiid said of Harris. “That’s what he’s been doing all season, knocking down big shots, even the ones that were taken away from him for whatever reason. I mean, he’s been great. ”.
The Sixers ended up defeating the Raptors 104-101 in overtime to improve to 17-12 on the season, despite falling into the typical slog Nurse’s team always seeks to lure them into. And this kind of ugly victory doesn’t happen without Harris’ 21 points on 7-for-9 from the field and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
The way Harris earned those points sums up her new role. One of his seven field goals came on an isolation play in the middle post that he has experienced in past seasons. That’s old Tobias Harris. But on the other six baskets, he took a total of zero dribbles. Whether in transition or from beyond the arc, the former defense surveyor was quick to pull the trigger. That’s the new Tobias Harris, who we’re starting to see more often.
“I know if they threw me in there two years ago, I wouldn’t be able to get it up and go because that wasn’t my mentality, to catch and throw very fast,” Harris said. “At first it was difficult, but now I changed my mindset and just said, ‘Okay, if that’s the case and situation, how can you be the best at it?’ ”
There are a lot of Sixers possessions when Harris doesn’t have much say in whether he’ll get the ball. To be honest, he is most of them. The Sixers often start possession with Harris parked in the corner or on the wing watching a james harden– Pick-and-roll Embiid. Sometimes the ball finds him and sometimes it doesn’t.
Regardless of what the defense does, Harris has to be ready to shoot. As Rivers said, “Go four or five minutes and not get it, then the ball swings. To do it, that’s hard.”
The full season numbers are trending upwards. Harris is taking 5.7 attempts from deep every 36 minutes and is making 42 percent of those shots. Both numbers are the most since he joined the Sixers midway through the 2018-19 season. He is taking 4.7 catch-and-shoot 3s per game, which is nearly double what he took during the 2020-21 season. And that’s even with Maxey, Embiid and Harden losing significant time.
Harden, whose decision-making was spotty at times in the second half and overtime against Toronto, got the ideal switch to Fred VanVleet for the game-winning basket. He then found Harris in the corner and, as he had all game, Tucker was there to set up the flare screen.
That basket did count, and though the Sixers struggled to execute down the stretch, they survived against Pascual I’m sorry (38 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) to clinch the victory. And whether it was the physical recalibration of his jump stop or the mental preparation to take on a catch-and-shoot role, Harris’ success in transitioning to his new role played a big part.
“I have always played basketball my entire career in the flow of the game and through a rhythm. That’s been my whole modus operandi since I was a kid,” Harris said. “But sometimes your rhythm can be off and all that, and you just have to find a way. And I’m glad I was able to adjust to that.”
(Top Harris Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)