Playoffs 2019 East First Round: 76ers (3) vs. Nets (6)
Slumping Harris looks forward to next shot at redemption
Nets' 3-point threat has struggled to fill that role in first round vs. Sixers
BROOKLYN — It’s a rough time for Joe Harris to be in his worst shooting slump since … well, since most NBA fans knew who Joe Harris was.
Harris, the league’s leading 3-point shooter (by a comfortable margin) in the regular season and the winner of the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest at 2019 NBA All-Star, has shot 3-for-16 (19 percent) from 3-point range in the first-round series between his Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers. All of his 3-pointers came in the first quarter of Game 1 and, over the last 15 quarters, Harris has gone 0-for-12 from deep. It’s the first time in more than two years (since Jan. 2017) that he’s gone three games without making a 3-pointer.
Credit goes to the Sixers’ defense for keeping Harris from getting open too often. He’s been able to fire off just six 3-point attempts in 121 possessions with J.J. Redick guarding him. But Harris has also missed some wide open looks, none more important than the one he got midway through the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Saturday.
With the Nets up six, coach Kenny Atkinson drew up a play that left Harris wide open on the right wing after setting a screen for D’Angelo Russell. Redick switched onto Russell, but Ben Simmons didn’t stay with Harris, who didn’t have a defender within 10 feet of him when Russell got the ball back to him.
In the regular season, Harris shot 48.1 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, best among players (including Stephen Curry) with at least 200 catch-and-shoot attempts. If he had made that wide-open shot, the Nets would have had a nine-point lead with 5 1/2 minutes to go.
“We love,” Atkinson said Monday, “that shot.”
The shot rimmed out, but that wasn’t the Nets’ only missed opportunity in the fourth quarter of Game 4 — when the Sixers scored just twice on a stretch of 11 possessions and the Nets couldn’t put them away. Harris missed two open 3-pointers, D’Angelo Russell missed a layup, and both Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert missed free throws.
If any of those shots go down, the Nets are probably going back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, TNT The league’s Last Two Minute Report also acknowledged that Tobias Harris got away with a “wrap” foul when Jarrett Allen began his roll to the rim that ultimately resulted in the turnover that ended the Nets’ hopes for tying the series.
Atkinson pointed out the no-call in his postgame news conference: “That’s a point of emphasis from Day 1 at the coaches’ meeting, how they’re going to really emphasize that, beginning of the game and end of the game, and all season.” Additionally, Nets general manager Sean Marks was suspended for Tuesday’s game and fined $25,000 for entering the referees’ locker room after Game 4.
The Last Two Minute Report also pointed out that Dinwiddie got away with a discontinued dribble before Russell hit a go-ahead three with 1:26 left in the fourth.
You got to block it out and realize that the whole goal of what I’m trying to do is just get open shots. If I can get a clean look, I do feel confident that it’s going to go in.”
Nets guard Joe Harris
Atkinson had put the missed call behind him by the time he spoke to the media on Monday afternoon.
“That is not the reason we lost,” he said. “The Nets lost because we weren’t good enough quite honestly. We weren’t good enough. We didn’t make the plays. We didn’t make the shots. We didn’t execute.”
Harris, meanwhile, wouldn’t dwell on the open threes that he missed.
“The shots, all that stuff, kind of comes and goes,” he said. “You’re not going to be hitting every single game. You wish that you could. But there’s a lot of other areas to impact the game where I focus more on. So I was more concerned with, position-wise, where I was at defensively on certain plays and what I could have done differently, rather than about missing shots.”
To his credit, Harris responded from that wide-open miss and put the Nets ahead in the final minute of Game 4 with a tough finish over Joel Embiid, one possession before Mike Scott hit the game-winner on the other end of the floor.
“Joe’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson said. “He’s much more. These highs and lows come with shooting and generally you look at our last two games, I can back it up analytically, we’re getting shots. We’re not shooting it at the level we have even during the year. We’re not shooting the ball well. I think that will come back. I think we’re due; we’re overdue so hopefully it happens this next game.”
Harris did admit to feeling the 12 consecutive misses.
“When you’re going through a game and you miss your first couple,” he said, “you definitely put a little bit of added pressure on yourself. And there is that sense of frustration. You got to block it out and realize that the whole goal of what I’m trying to do is just get open shots. If I can get a clean look, I do feel confident that it’s going to go in.”
He’ll have more opportunities on Tuesday. If the Nets are to extend their season beyond that, they’ll need to put the frustration of Game 4 behind them.
“That’s kind of what we’ve done all year,” Caris LeVert said. “We’ve had tough losses that we’ve had to shake out of our memory and kind of go out there and try to correct in and get a win. So I feel like any team can do it, I feel like we can do it.”
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