Sixers Star Nearly Missed Nets Game, Dealing with ‘Aching Knee’

Tobias Harris, Kyrie Irving

Getty Sixers forward Tobias Harris battles with Nets guard Kyrie Irving during a game on April 14 in Philadelphia.

Tobias Harris has been dealing with soreness in his right knee dating back to Feb. 25. The Philadelphia 76ers originally deemed it a contusion and an MRI revealed no structural damage. That hasn’t stopped the injury from lingering.

Harris was pulled in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets after he started limping. The Sixers had built up an 18-point lead over their top rivals in the Eastern Conference and head coach Doc Rivers didn’t want Harris to further aggravate his injured knee.

The 6-foot-8 forward stayed on the bench even after the Nets went on a 21-2 run and stormed back to within three points. After the game, Harris called it a “day-by-day thing” and admitted there was a “50-50” chance he wasn’t going to suit up at all versus Brooklyn.

“I’ve been having a little aching in my knee so that was kind of limiting me there in the fourth quarter,” Harris told reporters. “Even going into today’s game it was pretty much 50-50 if I was going to be able to go, so it’s a day-by-day thing. And just with some rest and recovery, hopefully, I’ll feel better come tomorrow and the next day.”

The 28-year-old played brilliantly once again for the Sixers. He scored 26 points (11-of-17 from the field) in 34 minutes while playing tight defense. He completely stymied Nets forward Joe Harris (six points) while switching up to take Kyrie Irving when needed. He was up to the challenge all night.

“We just have to continue to handle our business. Night in, night out,” Harris said. “Obviously here we have a good stretch of games against some very good teams who are going to push us, and we have to be ready for the challenge every single night and bring it. It’s good to have that challenge and we embrace it.”

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Sixers Own Tiebreaker Over Nets in East

The Nets were playing without Kevin Durant and James Harden, but that didn’t stop the Sixers from celebrating their 123-117 win. The victory gives Philly the tiebreaker for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs should both teams finish with the same record. That’s a pretty big deal considering the Sixers have gone 21-5 at home this year, plus 52-9 there over the last two seasons.

“I think they’re comfortable at home,” Rivers said. “Young teams typically are comfortable at home.”

Sixers center Joel Embiid pinpointed their struggles last year in the Orlando bubble to no fans in the stands. He reasoned that even when the boisterous Philly faithful are raining down boos, it motivates the players to step up their game. They draw off that energy, negative or positive.

“For me, the one seed is very important for that reason,” Embiid said. “Every game we play at home, it just feels like we are unbeatable. So we just got to keep pushing, keep grinding all these wins these next couple of games, and do our best to keep winning.”


Improving Transition Defense Top Priority

Rivers thought the Sixers’ performance on the defensive end was one of their worst outputs of the year. His squad entered Wednesday’s game with the second-best defensive rating (106.6) in the league, per NBA.com.

Then they gave up 117 points to the Nets, mostly to Brooklyn’s reserves who were forced into action due to injury. Rivers had to put his starters back in late in the fourth to close it out.

“We got to hold ourselves accountable in situations like that, and close out games,” Sixers guard Ben Simmons said. “And that’s on us. That’s on us. We just got to lock in in the fourth quarter and not get too excited about the score late in games.”

One problem area was their transition defense, with guys slow to get back after missing shots. The Nets scored 18 fast-break points.

“An easy way to fix that is just to make every shot so there is no transition,” Harris joked. “It’s been a thing for us all year where we’re not satisfied with it. We’re 29th in the league, so obviously, it’s a flaw of ours.”


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