Instant Observations: Harris’ Big Night Leads Shorthanded 76ers to Win Over Raptors

Instant Observations: Harris’ Big Night Leads Shorthanded 76ers to Win Over Raptors Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey each scored 30-plus points, leading the Philadelphia 76ers‘ (20-8) to a 121-111 win over the Toronto Raptors (11-17) on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Harris finished the game with 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Embiid came one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and four blocks. Maxey added in 33 points, four rebounds and 10 assists. The Sixers in this game were without De’Anthony Melton (left thigh contusion), Nic Batum (right hamstring strain), Pat Beverley (right heel soreness) and Mo Bamba (illness).

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 31 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jakob Poeltl finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. The Raptors were missing Christian Koloko (illness; respiratory issue).

The Sixers next take on the Miami Heat down in South Beach on Christmas evening. Here are some instant observations from the win over the Raptors:

Harris has best game of season

It is amazing what happens when Harris plays with confidence and actively looks for his own shot. He scored the Sixers’ first points of the game on a turnaround jumper from the post. A few minutes later, he drilled a catch-and-shoot triple. That play would serve as a sign of things to come. Harris finished the opening quarter with 11 points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting. In a quarter the Sixers seemingly sleepwalked through, his strong start was the lone thing that kept the team afloat.

The most encouraging thing to take away from Harris’ fantastic night was his quick decision making and aggressiveness from 3-point range. After knocking down both of his attempts from long distance in the first quarter, he proceeded to drill a step-back triple in the first few minutes of the second frame.

Harris’ 3-point volume this season (2.9 attempts per game) is the lowest it has been in his time in Philadelphia. It was a great sign to see him get back to having a quick trigger from beyond the arc, especially considering everyone knows he is a strong outside shooter. He set season-highs in both 3-pointers made (five) and attempts from long distance (nine).

While he was on fire from beyond the arc against Toronto, he also scored from multiple other areas of the floor. He relied on his mid-range jumper in addition to driving to the rim and finishing through contact with confidence. One of the things he did well in his strong first few weeks of the season was aggressively driving to the basket. If he can get back to playing with that type of aggression as a driver, the Sixers’ offense will be much better off.

This game serves as a reminder of what Harris is capable of when he looks for his own shot. There were never questions about his skillset, but rather that he plays far too passively. Having him play closer to this level on a consistent basis makes the Sixers’ offense much more difficult to defend. Expecting him to reach this level of production on a nightly basis is unreasonable, but as long as he plays aggressively he can open up the floor for both Embiid and Maxey.

Embiid, hobbled, battles through tough start to game

The first quarter was, let’s just say, not pretty for Embiid. He turned the ball over nearly every time he put it on the floor, committing four turnovers in the opening quarter. He also failed to impact the game early on as a scorer. His first made field goal did not come until there was 1:15 left in the first quarter. Some of his shot attempts were brutal, including a mid-range shot on an attempt to draw a foul that clanked off the backboard. His defense in the opening quarter was also not pretty, allowing Poeltl to score 10 points. To make matters worse, he turned his ankle while attempting to defend a Poeltl layup attempt. While he did not miss any action, he was clearly hobbled by it throughout the remainder of the contest.

Fortunately for the Sixers, Embiid seemed to recover from his difficult start. He rebounded from his turnover-plagued first quarter to make a significant impact distributing the basketball. He read the floor well and used his gravity to open up space for others, resulting in multiple easy looks and a handful of assists. The big fella also stepped up defensively, obliterating multiple shots around the rim. His locked-in defense around the rim played a large role in holding Toronto to 21 second-quarter points.

For much of the night, it looked like Embiid was well on his way to an uncharacteristically quiet game scoring the basketball. However, the big fella woke up in that aspect in the third quarter. He scored 17 points in the third frame through a mixture of impressive mid-range shots and finesse working in the post. After struggling for much of the night, he somehow still managed to compile a good stat line by the end of the game.

Maxey explodes in fourth quarter

While a lot of attention (rightfully so) is going to be paid to Harris’ incredible night, Maxey also put together another impressive performance. He did a good job quietly keeping the Sixers offense humming. For much of the night, he was forced to settle for what the Toronto defense was giving him. However, he exploded to score 17 points in the fourth quarter. He connected on back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the quarter to effectively seal the win for the Sixers.

Embiid recently praised Maxey’s ability to close games in the fourth quarter. A 23-year old having that level of poise late in games is hard to believe.

Digging deep into the bench

The Sixers came into this game missing multiple rotation players. As a result, head coach Nick Nurse was forced to dig deeper into the bench. Marcus Morris Sr. stepped into the starting lineup and did a decent job filling up the stat sheet. He finished with seven points, four rebounds and five assists. Robert Covington also played 23 minutes and, while going scoreless, he impacted the game through playing active defense.

The Sixers had to rely on Danuel House Jr. and Furkan Korkmaz to fill out the backup point guard minutes. The results were predictably not pretty. The duo combined to play 30 minutes and produce five points, two rebounds and one assist. However, this is not something to worry much about long term considering how undermanned the Sixers were in this contest. Typically, House and Korkmaz would barely see any time on the floor.

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