Tobias Harris goes for 37 to power the Sixers to victory over Kings: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (23-13) hosted the Sacramento Kings (23-14) on Friday. Philadelphia wanted to snap a three-game losing streak. Sacramento wanted to push its winning streak to three games. Tobias Harris scored 37 points to lead the Sixers in a drubbing of the Kings, 112-93.
Before we get to the action, some notes.
The Kings were without the services of Kevin Huerter, who has a sprained left ankle.
Jordan Ford and Jalen Slawson are on two-way assignments with Sacramento's G League affiliate and were not available.
Mike Brown started De'Aaron Fox, Chris Duarte, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, and Domantas Sabonis.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, both of whom have left knee inflammation.
Kenny Lofton Jr. has a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder and was out.
Ricky Council IV and Terq Smith are on two-way G-League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were not available.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Nico Batum, Harris, and Paul Reed.
- Numbers can be quite deceiving. As strong of an offensive night as Wednesday was for Harris, his defense was quite poor and he showed no life as a scorer after Maxey fouled out of the game in overtime. But, Harris was in a redemptive mood early in this game.
He was tasked with guarding the 6-foot-10 Sabonis as the primary defender. Despite the size disadvantage, Harris stood him up in the post on a couple of first-quarter possessions, controlling the matchup and saving his teammates from having to make rotations to bail him out.
Harris also put forth an explosive scoring display, at least by his own standards. He weaponized his physicality, using his mass and foot speed to take it right at the Kings in the paint. He used spin moves on back-to-back possessions to beat defenders to spots, getting to his right as he turned the corner and attacking quickly. He got the hoop and the harm on those two possessions, making a statement en route to a 23-point first half. It wasn't just quick moves out of the post, either. Harris brought out some of his most creative isolation moves, using fakes to get defenders in the air before pivoting forward for shots at the rim.
- The dialogue about Harris' night is incomplete without a nod to his playmaking in that torrid first half. He made some outstanding passes to the weak-side corner as he glided through the lane, feeding the likes of Batum for open threes to punish over-helpers.
- For all of the rebounding woes Philadelphia suffered through, they at least did their best to negate those extra Sacramento possessions by turning the Kings over in the driving lanes. The Sixers did an outstanding job of using Sabonis' predictability against him. They goaded him into over-using his left hand, and then preyed on that by disrupting his dribble when he put the ball on the floor.
Even if the Kings cleanly found the driving angles, the Sixers showed as much body as they could to force the driver under the rim with nowhere to go. Not only did they make them play against the baseline, but they made it difficult for the ball-handler to pivot and see anywhere to make a reasonable pass. If they didn't muddy up Sacramento's offense in the driving lanes, they capitalized on mistakes with activity in the passing lanes.
- Without Embiid available, the best way to score on any given night might just have to be getting out in transition. That was the idea - get an already bad defense backpedaling, and move the ball up the floor quickly. The Sixers dominated the Kings with pace, exerting pressure even on made shots. They forged a 19-point halftime advantage by ramming the ball down Sacramento's throat and never letting up.
- Some really good Mo Bamba minutes in this game. His timing at the rim was sensational, putting one strong foot towards the ball and emerging from the weak side to pack a couple of shots at the basket.
- Speaking of good minutes out of the centers not named Embiid, it was as if something really clicked for Reed on the offensive end in this game. He found himself dictating possessions in space because Sacramento blitzed Maxey on ball screens. Rather than force anything, Reed made the simple play, finding the open teammate to launch a three or attack a close-out.
- If you ever wonder just how much Harris means to this team, regardless of quality of play, go re-watch the final five minutes of this game. Every single player - on the bench and on the court - desperately wanted Harris to break a career-high 40 points. It was as if you were watching the team manager get some minutes on senior night. Anything to help him achieve a great moment. Bummer one more shot didn't fall.
- I'm willing to grant the Sixers a bit of clemency with their issues on the defensive glass because Embiid was out and Sacramento missed so many shots that they were inevitably going to scratch and claw their way to a couple of additional plays per possession with offensive rebounds. But, there is one detractor to mention on this night.
When Sacramento made a light run to slap back a little bit towards the end of the third quarter, Philadelphia's offense stalled because the Sixers didn't really have any kind of derivative out of the pick-and-roll. They screened for Maxey, spoon-feeding Sacramento the blitz, and then watched while he tried to string out the defense and find the open teammate.
Those are the possessions on which you have to call up another handler and get Maxey off the ball so that you can unclog the offense. You can't then re-introduce the pick-and-roll for Maxey a few moments later because that brings you right back to where you started. Instead, you have to get a little creative with him. Use him as a screener and see if he draws two defenders. Run something for him off the ball. But, pick-and-roll just pushes him away from the basket, creating a four-on-three without your best offensive player.
The Sixers (24-13) will host the Houston Rockets (19-18) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBA TV.
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