Tobias Harris can do everything as a scorer. Inside and out, he has a plethora of weapons in his balanced, intelligent scoring arsenal. And on Monday night, he threw everything at the New Orleans Pelicans in his highest-scoring game with the Philadelphia 76ers so far.
A 2-for-8 mark from 3 stopped Harris going off for over 30, but perfect 8-for-8 shooting inside the arc and a 7-for-8 night from the free throw line allowed him to finish the game with 29 points on a 74.3 True Shooting Percentage, to go with 10 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. As the Sixers’ double-digit lead dwindled in the final minutes, Harris’s big outing wound up being pivotal in holding onto the win. If anything, they probably could have looked to him even more as their creator to close the fourth quarter.
So, what was clicking?
Seven of his 10 made field goals came in the paint. He looked to establish his authority inside early on, driving past Julius Randle to dunk his first make of the game.
After that, we saw something that the Sixers have started to utilize more lately, and will continue to do so with Ben Simmons’ minutes increasing at center in the absence of Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic: Simmons as a roll man.
While Simmons needs to work on his rolling/finishing ability, as it's still something he's done so rarely in his career, it's an effective new wrinkle to utilize his screens, passes out of short rolls, or post-ups after favorable switches. Surrounding him with four shooters when he's in at center is ideal. And with Harris — who can handle in these situations as a pull-up threat from deep, driver against smaller or slower defenders, or capable passer — Simmons has a great new partner.
Here, Harris swiftly attacks the size mismatch after the switch onto Jrue Holiday by flying down the lane for a soft floater:
In the second quarter, Harris provided another prime example of how he looks to abuse mismatches inside, something that helped him rank in the 80th percentile on post-ups while with the Clippers this season. On this play, the 6-foot-4 Elfrid Payton never stood a chance once Harris gained some momentum moving to the low block:
Harris is now averaging 20.4 points per game with a stellar 65.3 True Shooting Percentage with the Sixers (he’s at 61 for the season, which ranks sixth out of 33 20-point-per-game scorers). Part of the reason he’s so efficient is because he doesn’t settle. He doesn’t force many tough fadeaways and step-backs, and he’ll look to better his positioning or attack switches whenever he can.
Harris could have easily settled for a jab step and long two here, but instead opted to drive on Payton again and bury the short jumper:
And, of course, Harris can fire off the bounce when he needs to do so. He’s shooting a career-high 42.5 percent from 3 this season, including an lights-out mark of 47.3 percent on pull-up 3s (albeit on a limited 1.2 attempts per game). Whether he’s pulling up out of pick-and-rolls, dribble hand-offs, or simply closing possessions as the shot clock winds down, he’s more than comfortable:
With some more sharp passes to keep the ball humming around the court as well, Harris was excellent.
At the other end of the floor, Harris isn’t a great defender. His focus can waver off the ball and a lack of high-end speed and lateral quickness limits him on it. That said, he has been able to provide a touch of help around the basket and sturdy post defense. He’s strong, he stays grounded, and he knows how to use his size.
He came away with multiple impressive plays against Randle — an aggressive, powerful interior scorer who looks to bully his opponents. Harris remained alert and physical, contested any shot he could (including two blocks), and didn’t bite on pump fakes. Randle finished the game 1-for-8 when Harris was assigned as his primary defender.
Bar the cooler-than-normal 3-point shooting, this performance was the epitome of Harris’s game. Smart shot selection, diverse scoring from all over the floor, physical rebounding, and solid defense in the post.
As the Sixers move forward without Embiid, they’ll need more of the same from Harris. And judging by his practically seamless fit into the offense so far, with more opportunties to run in smaller lineups with Simmons at center (featuring some extra pick-and-rolls), he looks ready to keep making a serious impact.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.