Sixers need Tobias Harris to play on his strengths

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Thus far in the Philadelphia 76ers’ postseason, it seems like every player has had “a game.” We had the James Harden Game during Game 1 against the Celtics. The Sixers have had strong showings from Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and even BBall Paul against the Brooklyn Nets. There was one player who had a quiet impact in Game 5 against Boston, that being Tobias Harris.

It’s no secret that the veteran forward has had his fair share of struggles over the years with the Sixers, especially during playoffs. He’s not exactly the guy you want contesting shots, he primarily relies on layups and the occasional open three to score, and he can get lost in a transition offense. But Harris was absolutely locked in for Game 5. When he puts it all together, the team is immediately improved.

A decisive Harris lifts the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) gestures after making a 3-point shot during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets Saturday, April 22, 2023, in New York. The 76ers won 96-88. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

For one, Harris played decisively off-ball, connecting passes and opening up the Sixers to run a pick-and-roll offense with Joel Embiid and James Harden. He did well anticipating his teammates’ next move, spacing himself on the floor accordingly, and staying open for a quick catch-and-shoot. He even did well in the few mismatched isolations he found himself in, playing to the likes of Malcolm Brogdon rather than throwing the ball away. And he’s been quietly meaningful on the defensive end, with nine defensive rebounds – more than any other player on either team in Game 5. This is especially meaningful, as it freed up Embiid from the rim to contest shots. No wonder he ended the night as a +12.

While this was certainly one of Tobias’s best showings this postseason, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be sustainable. With Embiid, Harden, and Maxey on the court for the Sixers, all Tobias really needs to do is keep it simple and focus on what he does best – taking trigger shots and getting to the rim on both ends of the court. Without having to worry about running pick-and-rolls or consistently drawing out isolations, Tobias can limit turnovers and maximize his efficiency. 

Like all his teammates, Tobias played on his strengths in last night’s win. Embracing their roles and focusing on what each team member does well was what led the Sixers to their best regular season record since 2001; doing so will allow them to continue their playoff success.