If Tobias Harris’ virtuoso performance in Game 1 wasn’t enough to make you believe, then you never will. The third member of the Philadelphia 76ers’ “Big Three” has morphed into a consistent and reliable scorer. Night in. Night out.
Harris’ stated goal prior to the 2021 campaign was to be a guy who could be counted on in clutch minutes, those moments with the game on the line. He’s done that and more through five playoff contests: 25.0 points, 10 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game. He scored a playoff career-high 37 points in Game 1, then added 28 points in Game 5 to close out the series against the Washington Wizards. The 28-year-old veteran knew he needed to take on a bigger role with Joel Embiid out.
“I definitely feel like I’m getting closer to that day by day. It’s something that I envisioned for myself,” Harris told reporters on Wednesday night. “It’s something that I work at, day in and day out, but more than that just mentally being able to stay in the moment of whatever I’m doing.”
The Sixers had to rely on a smaller lineup with Embiid sidelined with a left knee injury. No one knows when or if the All-Star big man is coming back. Head coach Doc Rivers ran his offense through Harris at times the other night by putting the ball in Seth Curry’s hands. They were running the pick-and-roll to perfection as Curry scored 30 points and Harris handed out six assists.
“I think the biggest thing that I try to go into all these nights with is to just do whatever you can to help the team win,” Harris said. “Whether that be making plays, whether that be making big shots, being a stable leader for the team as well. I think that my progression is continuing to reach where it needs to reach and that’s something that I’ve always strive for, but there’s still a whole lot of work that can still be done and that’s the beautiful part of it.”
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Sixers Stepping Up Without Embiid
There wasn’t any panic in the Sixers’ locker room earlier this season when Embiid went down. And it’s certainly not going to start setting in now. The team went 8-4 during a dominant West Coast trip without their big man from March 12 to April 6. Ben Simmons thinks they have “all the pieces” they need to win a championship. His optimism is shared up and down the roster.
“Obviously, we want him to get healthy,” Harris said. “We want him to be with the group when he’s ready but we know as a team, this is the playoffs and nobody is going to wait for us. Whether he’s out there or not, we have to be ready. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Harris seemed more energized than usual in Game 5 as he passionately implored the home crowd to get louder and louder. He ran to midcourt and shouted at the top of his lungs after drilling a dagger three-pointer.
“We talked about the obstacles and all that stuff,” Rivers said after Game 5. “And we talked about if you don’t have an obstacle to reach your goal then it probably wasn’t a great goal so I think our guys decided that this was one of the obstacles that we had to get through tonight.”
Hawks-Sixers Schedule Released
The Atlanta Hawks will come to town on Sunday (June 6) for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. The rest of the schedule is TBD.
The Sixers won the regular-season series 2-1, with an average margin of victory of 33 points in Philly’s two victories. They enjoyed a 127-83 blowout win on April 28, although the Hawks were down several key players in that one including Trae Young.
Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams in the league since the All-Star break, too. They went 27-11 down the stretch after firing head coach Lloyd Pierce on March 1. Credit interim coach Nate McMillan for doing an excellent job and pushing all the right buttons. The Hawks bounced the New York Knicks in five games to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
“We gotta get ready for the Hawks,” Simmons told reporters. “No real thoughts. Just gotta play the Hawks.”