The Philadelphia 76ers had a golden opportunity to steal a win from the Boston Celtics without Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. But they couldn’t get the job done, losing a close battle in the final minutes. Tobias Harris' performance was part of the reason why the Sixers held the lead at halftime but also why they were unable to finish the job.
Harris had 11 points on 5-7 shooting in the first half, knifing his way through the Celtics' defense and making himself a key cog in a well-rounded scoring attack. But then he shot 1-9 in the second half, tallying three steals but also providing that same out of points and turnovers.
After the game, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse talked about what Harris needed to do in order to be more impactful in crunch time.
“I just would like him to just stay in a little bit more in attack mode,” Nurse told reporters after the game. “He just seemed a little bit back on his heels a little bit. If he's getting, getting that pressure out on the floor like that — talked to him about, just, you're gonna have to attack that. You can't play it east-west, you're gonna have to try to get north-south on that just a little bit. But we'll work on that with him.”
While Harris did try to work his way right to the cup on many of his second-half shots, he too often faded away from the hoop on his attempts. He got blocked four times, including twice on a single sequence by Al Horford late in the game. After Horford made a great play on the ball, Harris rushed the second attempt and left the Sixers with nothing on a huge possession.
Harris acknowledged the mistakes he made down the stretch in the Sixers' close loss.
“Yeah. I mean, I was attacking but got my shot blocked a few times,” Harris said to reporters when asked about Nurse's comments. “A couple of them, I probably had to try to alter up the speed a little bit and see. But that's something we always have talked about from the beginning of the year is…getting out and attacking in transition and trying to create some easy ones. Tonight, I didn't think, on a few of 'em, they were good. They just weren't there tonight, to be honest, in the transition.”
The Sixers simply being in that game against the Celtics is enough of a moral victory (even if the team isn’t all that eager to boast it). But getting a shaky performance from the third option of the team when it's at full strength held them back. Harris didn’t single-handily lose the game — that’s never the case for any player in a team sport — but he should be expected to rise up in moments like these.
Harris stressed previously that his mindset is predicated on doing what he has to do in order to help the Sixers win. This game can serve as fuel for him to continue exerting downhill pressure on defenses.