Tobias Harris was screaming mad. After drilling back-to-back buckets in a 36-second span late in the fourth quarter, the best player not to make the All-Star team let his emotions out. Raw, true, pissed off.
First, the snubbed Sixers forward hit a 3-footer to give Philly a 94-92 lead followed by a 12-footer to make it 96-92. Harris, who had a game-high 30 points, punctuated the series by mouthing the words “All-Star” to the Philly faithful at Wells Fargo Center. And it fueled a 99-96 win over the New York Knicks.
“That’s for sure what I said and for me, that’s just reaffirming that to myself,” Harris told reporters. “I know the fans know that, but reaffirming that to them and to myself especially making those big plays. I try to just find motivation in different areas. That’s one of them.”
The Sixers (28-12) have reeled off six straight wins and hold the best record in the Eastern Conference. Their 18-3 record at home is the second-best mark in the NBA as the team gets set to welcome the Milwaukee Bucks on a back-to-back.
“They’re the best team in the East, or that’s what everyone has said at least early on,” head coach Doc Rivers said of Milwaukee. “And now our record says we are [the best] and we’ve earned that but they’re great. What stands out is they have a guy named Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and they set the tables through him.”
Ben Simmons Says Harris Gets Overlooked
Harris wasn’t the only player on the court who thought he was robbed of an All-Star trip. Sixers point guard Ben Simmons was quick to point out how much everyone takes his talent “for granted.” He knows that weighs heavy on Harris, especially when the Sixers don’t get credit for having a Big Three.
“He was pissed off. He should have been an All-Star,” Simmons said of Harris. “You got a few guys, myself and Joel [Embiid], and then Tobias … I think people just take for granted how talented he is. To us, he’s an All-Star. He’s one of those guys who can get it done and go get a bucket, he’s a big-time player.”
Simmons ran the show once again with Embiid out due to an injured knee. He fell three assists short of a triple-double against the Knicks: 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists. Seth Curry also exploded for 20 points — 4-of-7 from deep — as the Sixers continue to learn how to win without their MVP.
“It’s huge because when he [Embiid] does come back, guys are going to be confident and be able to play, especially with him out there,” Simmons said. “We’re going to be able to play the way we’ve been playing but with a little more experience, a little more opportunities for everybody else.”
Harris Saves Birthday Cake for Embiid
Meanwhile, Embiid celebrated his 27th birthday on Tuesday night by resting up at home. The bone bruise on his knee is expected to keep him sidelined for two to three weeks, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of mind. Far from it.
Harris joked that he had to put the cape on in the fourth quarter so as not to ruin Embiid’s birthday party. He scored eight of his 30 points in the final frame while adding six rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal on the night.
“It’s Joel’s birthday,” Harris joked, “so I wanted to make sure he could eat his cake in peace and enjoy his birthday.”