With the Philadelphia 76ers set to face off against the Boston Celtics in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Sixers starters Tobias Harris singled out Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown when talking about how the Sixers will need to slow their division rival.
“Just guarding all their guys,” Harris told Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “Obviously, the two-headed snake is Tatum and Brown, but then also it’s the other guys who come out and have over-average nights, right? And those guys are playing well.”
Who are the “other guys” Harris was talking about?
“Guys like Derrick White, Al Horford, Marcus Smart,” he said. “Obviously, you got to stop the top two, but outside of that, we got to be able to maintain and make those other guys’ lives hard, too.”
The Sixers went 1-3 against the Celtics during the regular season, though they won their most recent matchup, an April 4 home game. The Celtics will start the series, which begins May 1, with homecourt advantage
Tobias Harris Singled Out as X-Factor
Michael Pina of The Ringer singled out Harris as the Sixers’ X-Factor for their playoff success, writing that Harris is too good for his role as the team’s fourth option yet has a history of not playing well in important games.
“Tobias Harris is often lost in the conversation about whether this Sixers team can win an NBA title. He’s an overqualified fourth option whose skill set often feels incompatible with those of Philly’s best players, and foreseeably, he wilts in big games,” Pina wrote in a story published April 24.
Pina previewed how Harris could help the Sixers accomplish their goals in the postseason.
“To advance, Philly needs Harris—a score-first third wheel—to thrive in less glamorous areas than he was originally paid for. Crash the offensive glass, fortify a switch-heavy defense, knock down wide-open 3s, take care of the ball, and, only on occasion, punish a mismatch with a tough turnaround.”
He also wondered about what to expect specifically from Harris when the Sixers take on the Celtics.
“The big question now is whether he can replicate this success against the Celtics, who are chock-full of elite individual defenders and far superior offensive talent,” he wrote. “Can he create second-chance opportunities in big moments, hit those open shots, and find ways to win when the ball isn’t in his hands? Will Boston feel Harris or completely forget he’s on the floor without being punished for it?”
Doc Rivers Praises Tobias Harris’ Professionalism
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers praised Harris for being willing to take a lesser role over time with the Sixers.
“Not a lot of guys like it, really,” Rivers told Carlin. “I say it all the time to different people, you go back to when I first met him. He was my No. 1 option with the Clippers and I come to Philly and he’s 2, then 3, then 4, but he just does all the other stuff. There are times when he’s 2 and 3, but it’s not an easy thing.”
Rivers added that the role Harris has accepted is not easy for players to do.
“A lot of guys can’t do it,” Rivers said. “You have to be on a good team, obviously, because selling that role is easier when you have a chance to do that. He’s committed himself to that, so it’s made it easier.”