The opening game of the Sixers’ first round matchup with the Toronto Raptors went about as well as it possibly could have for the home team, as it saw them cruise to a 131-111 victory to jump out to a 1-0 series lead.
While Tyrese Maxey dazzled with 38 points, including 21 in the third quarter alone, to finish as the team’s leading scorer, Tobias Harris supplemented him with a very efficient showing in his own right. Harris ended up with 26 points, second-most on the team, while shooting 9 of 14 from the field overall and 3 of 5 from three-point land. He also added six rebounds, six assists, a block, and a steal to finish as a +17 for the game, which was second-best plus-minus on the team.
After what was a noticeably rough adjustment period immediately following the Sixers’ acquisition of James Harden in February, Harris has increasingly embraced his new role down the stretch. As Tom West recently noted, Harris has responded to Harden’s presence by cutting down on his off-the-dribble creation and mid-range game, upping his three-point volume, and utilizing his size and quickness to get better looks at the rim.
While that has obviously led to his overall productivity dipping in recent weeks, his efficiency has been much improved. In 24 games after the All-Star break, he averaged 14.4 points per game while shooting 40.4% from three on 4.6 attempts per game, compared to the prior 49 games in which he put up 18.7 points per game while shooting 34.5% from three on 3.4 attempts per game.
That newfound acceptance was on full display Saturday in Game 1. He showed little to no hesitation when it came to ripping catch-and-shoot threes and was decisive attacking aggressive closeouts in the half court and in transition. He even mixed in some well-timed cuts that got him clean looks at the rim.
Last night very much looked like the best version of Tobias the Sixers will need to make serious noise in these playoffs. With Joel and James the clear focal points of the offense and Tyrese’s emergence as a legitimate scoring option, there is much less pressure on Tobias to be the guy that makes or breaks the Sixers’ offense. But on nights when Joel (19 points on 5 of 15 shooting) and James (22 points on 6 of 17 shooting) aren’t making shots at their usual clip, Tobias being able to deliver in the ways he did Saturday will alleviate a lot of the pressure on the Sixers’ top two guys.
While he won’t be expected to produce as much as he did in Game 1, if it was any indication, Tobias is certainly up to the task if need be.