The Philadelphia 76ers avoided disaster on Thursday night by crushing the Toronto Raptors 132-97 to win the series 4-2. The Sixers had lost the two previous closeout opportunities in games four and five, which allowed the Raptors to force a game six.
The Sixers got an inspired performance from their starting five, who all scored at least 12 points with four of them scoring 19 or more. Joel Embiid led the way with 33 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points and dished out 8 assists.
The Sixers also got 22 points and 15 assists from James Harden, who had his best performance of the postseason. Tobias Harris contributed with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
When Harden joined the Sixers it changed a lot for the team, including the roles of some of the starters. With the emergence of Maxey as the third scoring option, Harris’s role took the biggest hit as he slid from the third option to the fourth.
Because of that Harris’s name has been popular in suggested trades over the last couple of months. In a new article from Bleacher Reports Zach Buckley, names one starter that every team could move on from this offseason. For the Sixers, it’s no surprise that the player is Harris.
For this season alone, that gives the Sixers an embarrassment of riches at the offensive end. However, things will get complicated as soon as this playoff run ends, given the juxtaposition of Harris’ decreasing role (17.7 percent usage rate this postseason, down from 24.6 in last year’s playoffs) and increasing salary ($37.6 million next season and $39.3 million for 2023-24).
“It’s not that Tobias is a bad player; far from it,” an Eastern Conference scout told B/R’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “But that contract. He’s basically making max-player money as the team’s fourth option behind James, Joel and Maxey.”
Harris is stuck in a can’t-win spot. Even if he molded his game to be the perfect three-and-D support piece, he’d be grossly overpaid for the position. No matter how the Sixers feel about him as a player, they need to cut ties this summer in an attempt to balance the books.
Harris has played well this postseason as the fourth option and that will make it hard to move on from him. How his future shakes out with the Sixers will likely be determined by the rest of the postseason and what they potentially get offered for Harris.
Second Round Match-Up
The Sixers will square off with the top-seeded Miami Heat in the second round with game one scheduled for Monday night on the road. Philly was 2-2 against the Heat this season, with the last meeting a 113-106 loss on March 21.
The Heat easily handled the Atlanta Hawks in the first round winning the series 4-1. Three of the Heat’s wins in the series were by 10 points or more. Miami did that while being shorthanded, the team was without Kyle Lowry for games four and five and were without former Sixer Jimmy Butler in game five.
Defensively the Heat will be a tough matchup for the Sixers in this series. Miami currently has the second-best defensive rating in the playoffs and had the fourth-best defensive rating during the season.
It will certainly be a tough test for the Sixers and they’ll need an effort like they got in game six against the Raptors for this whole series.