For the Sixers’ shellacking of the Toronto Raptors in Game 3, the list of things that positively stood out is long and comprehensive. But one aspect I found particularly encouraging was the play of Tobias Harris. In a lineup with so much star power, there’s often a player or two who needs to take on a more, in a sense, reserved role. The trendy term here that I’ve fallen prey to is the “glue guy” — you know, the player who picks their spots methodically and timely, allowing his teammates to do what they do best, but is not passive to the point of hurting the team and does a lot of little yet important things right. In Game 3, that was Tobias Harris.
When checking a player’s box score line, many eyes want to peep the points total first. And if they do, Tobi’s 13 points aren’t wowing anyone. But to not fully appreciate the completeness of Tobias’ performance would be an injustice. Harris was active defensively, drained a pair of threes, ran the occasional pick-and-roll, and made plenty of correct reads. I’d like to briefly highlight some of the more impressive plays of the night from Harris below, which demonstrate how valuable Harris can be to the Sixers when he’s able to find the right balance for himself.
First thing to touch on is Harris’ defense — he stepped up in Game 3. The Sixers have the most success slowing down Pascal Siakam when Joel Embiid is guarding him. But Siakam is an exhausting assignment, he’s physical and he wants to get to the rim. It’s draining for Joel to match up with him every time down the floor. Fortunately, Harris appeared to be up for the task last night. He guarded Siakam on 17 possessions, limiting him to just four field goal attempts in those possessions. Siakam hit two of those, but Harris was bothersome nonetheless:
Harris was careful not to unnecessarily foul Siakam, even though Siakam did get a bit of a gift here in my opinion:
I don’t know, man....
Even when Harris was switched onto smaller, quicker guards, he made an impact. Here he has the awareness to avoid a Marc Gasol screen, quickly step up to contest a three and get a piece of Fred VanVleet’s shot attempt:
It wasn’t only FVV who Harris was able to successfully contest at the arc. Below, Kyle Lowry uses a Serge Ibaka screen to lose Jimmy Butler. Harris covers for Butler, getting a hand in Lowry’s grill without fouling. More important, Harris quickly turned his defense into an easy bucket on the other end:
I touched earlier on doing the little things that have a big impact. In the next play, Tobias Harris uses his gravity as a shooter to suck Pascal Siakam away from guarding the paint and then swiftly gets Simmons the ball all alone under the rim as Kawhi Leonard was late to get back:
As the Sixers as a whole are rounding into form and figuring each other out at exactly the right time, Tobias Harris will be a big part of that development if he continues playing as he did in Game 3. We’re talking about a guy who is a scorer making a significant impact on a game in which he had just 13 points. The list of players on this Sixers team that are putting the team ahead of the individual continues to grow.