Tobias Harris' Hot Start: Star Drops Playoff High in Game 1 vs. Wizards
With a white towel draped over his shoulders and “Here Come the Sixers” blaring in its typical celebratory fashion inside the arena, Tobias Harris threw on a headset after a career-best playoff performance.
“Tobias, you have to feel awfully good about your playoff career-high of 37 points,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Marv Albert stated.
“Yeah, you ain’t lying,” Harris replied, before elaborating on his team’s performance.
Numbers don’t lie.
The 76ers took a 1-0 lead with a 125-118 win over the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday at The Center.
Harris poured in 28 points…before halftime.
The 6-foot-7 wing immediately took advantage of the matchup against Washington and converted 12 of his 19 field goal attempts in the first half.
He & Iverson are the only 76ers with 28-plus in a playoff half in the play-by-play era (since 96-97).
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) May 23, 2021
The Wizards’ starting lineup included three guards listed at 6-foot-3 or shorter. Then, there was 7-footer Alex Len at the center position dealing with the guy who wears No. 21 for Philadelphia. That resulted in Washington’s Rui Hachimura, 6-foot-8 and 23 years young, primarily drawing the assignment on the more experienced Harris out of the gate.
Harris’ hot start proved even more critical when Joel Embiid got into some early foul trouble on Sunday.
“It was huge, especially in that time,” Embiid said of Harris’ effort. “When I was on the bench, we needed a scorer and he showed up. The whole game, really. But especially in that first half.
“Especially because they were also making a lot of shots. They went on a run, and [Harris] keeping us in the game while I was on the bench was huge.”
If Embiid thought the Wizards were making a lot of shots, the Wizards thought Harris made every shot.
“We knew going into the series that he’s right there with being an All-Star player,” Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks said of Harris postgame. “In the first half, he just made every shot. We weren’t giving him every shot, but he was making tough ones. And then he got open in transition and was able to attack. He’s a tough guard.”
Right there with being an All-Star player.
Was this an “I told you so” game? Here’s what Harris himself had to say:
“Not really. I know who I am. I know my game. I know my ability.
“I know one thing that I bring to this team, night in and night out, and that’s somebody that is going to play to win. And that’s what I hang my hat on every single night. That gives me clarity to go into these games and to have the focus to do whatever is necessary for the team to win.”
Harris saved one of his best baskets for the early fourth quarter, when he used a Dwight Howard screen to dance around Robin Lopez and score. His euro step and left-handed layup over the outstretched Lopez extended the Sixers’ lead to double digits, 108-97, and forced the Wizards to call a timeout.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Tobias Harris. pic.twitter.com/nI42GkB47L
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 23, 2021
“You have nights like this,” Harris said. “You get into those types of rhythms with the work that’s put in. The past two-to-three months, I’ve been preparing for this type of moment.”
The 10th-year pro’s previous playoff career high was 29 points on April 18, 2019 against Brooklyn.
“He did what he’s been doing,” Philadelphia’s Danny Green said. “He’s been carrying the weight, and he’s aggressive for us. He knew he had to be extra aggressive, but that’s what he’s been doing all year for us: taking on the challenge.”
Earlier in the week, Harris spoke with a determined tone about the playoffs:
“This is why you play basketball. For these opportunities. For these moments. To be able to reach the highest peak of the game and to win at the highest level.”
Tobias Harris certainly made the most of the moment in a Game 1 victory.
Wednesday’s Game 2 between the 76ers and Wizards tips off at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia.