As the Sixers sit prettily at the top of the Eastern Conference, many have been quick to compliment the dominance of Joel Embiid. However, if we’ve learned anything over the last two games, it’s that Tobias Harris also deserves a round of applause.
When it was announced that Doc Rivers would be the man to try and guide the Sixers back into calmer seas, many speculated that Harris could have a resurgence under the Coach who got the best out of him as a Clipper. So far, so good. Harris is averaging 19.6 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, which are right in line with his 2020 averages. The big difference this year, however, has been the addition of a clinical three-point shot.
Shooting 44.3% from beyond the arc, Harris heated up in a big way in the recent win over Boston, nailing all 3 of his shots in a 23 point outing. He then knocked down 3 of 5 against Detroit, with a huge shot late in the fourth to extend what was a narrow lead.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. He started the year earning ‘player of the week’ honors after drilling 56.3% from three-point range and 57.1% from the field overall.
‘For me I’ve always said I’m a player that flows in rhythm.’ He said after the win over Detroit. ‘If the ball is moving and we’re moving, I’m gonna be successful. That’s just the nature of the game and how I work. If the shots come, I’m gonna knock em down.’
Harris had scored over 20 points in each of his last three games coming into tonight, where he posted a further 17 in 34 minutes of play in a big win against Detroit.
When asked about what it is that has made this Sixers team soar to the top of the East in reference to his Head Coach, the 28-year-old cited a new sense of structure.
‘We’re more organized on the floor as a group and have more of a determination to make the pass for the next guy and play off one another. We’re playing off each other a lot better than we have in the past and we trust in each other. It’s something we always talked about but not necessarily did.’
‘For me, game after game, being able to progress, know my spots and also know where I can get these shots off to be effective in the fourth quarter.’
Tobias Harris is not only comfortable in a familiar system, but is clearly confident now that the wheels are fully in motion. The Sixers always seemed to have a problem in years’ past when it came to closing games. Blown leads, sloppy turnovers, and endless collapses saw the team consistently undo three-quarters of hard work. That is no longer a concern under Doc Rivers.
While a lot of the attention will continue to fall on Joel Embiid, the Sixers know that they will have to manage his load carefully as the season progresses. He can’t be relied upon to carry the team through the depths of the fourth quarter every single night, and the rise of Tobias Harris and his clutch-gene are only lightening that weight, with Rivers clearly able to draw up some different looks to get Harris open on catch-and-shoot opportunities, where he has been thriving as of late.
It’s been a bright start to the season for the man who many hold to high expectations due to his expensive contract, but this might be the year he begins to live up to that value.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire