The spotlight may have shone mostly for James Harden and Joel Embiid on Tuesday night, but there is something to be said about the performance of Tobias Harris.
The forward scored 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had a season-high nine assists in the Sixers’ 123-103 victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings. It was one of the most well-rounded performances for Harris in this young season.
He may not always be the highlight-reel player of the game, and he’s often overshadowed by the likes of Embiid or Harden, but Harris is changing the way he sees the court and it’s paying off in a big way. It was nearly his fourth double-double of the year already, but would have been the first to include assists had he found one more dime.
“It’s just an expansion of me evaluating the game and kind of reading how teams guard myself personally,” Harris said postgame on his improved playmaking. “I always had this approach of score, score, score. Now I just allow myself to be in certain positions, to be a little more pass first and allow that to open up the whole game for me. It’s just patience. That’s been the biggest takeaway from early in my career to now.”
And he did it all without a single turnover Tuesday night.
And none of this is to say he’s not still scoring. Harris set the tone early with 14 first-quarter points, ranging from beyond the arc to driving slams. Finishing with 21 points and a 52.9 shooting percentage, he continues to find space and take smarter, less contested shots and it’s paying dividends.
Harris’ versatility is coming to light on the other end of the court as well.
It wasn’t far off from tipoff when Harris found out he was tasked with shutting down Kings’ star guard De’Aaron Fox, with Sixers’ De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House Jr. ruled out late Tuesday afternoon. Fox had missed the Kings’ previous two games with foot soreness, but was back in the lineup at the Wells Fargo Center.
Fox averages 22.3 points and 50.0 percent field goal shooting, but was held to just 13 points and 33.3 percent shooting in Tuesday’s contest after being effectively locked down by Harris and Matisse Thybulle. Harris used his size and aggression to collect one steal, one block and five defensive rebounds on the night, and he is now averaging a career-high 1.3 steals per game.
“He continues to surprise me,” Thybulle said postgame. “You know Tobias cares about defense when he starts sitting down, putting his hands out, that’s something he used to never do. Now, it’s like I swear every single game, I see him do it a handful of times where they’re bringing the ball down, and he’s really getting into his stance. It means something to him. He’s a talented enough player, athletically and mentally, to be able to adjust and like make these transitions.”
Harris and the Sixers have won three in a row headed into the fourth game of a seven-game homestand when the Golden State Warriors come to South Philadelphia on Friday night.