Tobias Harris Was Excellent During Regular Season Fourth Quarters, So What Gives in the Playoffs?

Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re assigning blame for the Sixers’ consecutive second-half collapses, how much goes to Tobias Harris?

It’s always fascinating to see how much criticism Ben Simmons receives compared to the other max player supporting Joel Embiid.

For all of the great things Tobias Harris has done this year, he’s shot 2-9 from the floor during the second half of the last two games, and that’s a far cry from the clutch player we saw throughout much of this season.

Thursday, Doc Rivers was asked about Harris’ absence over those four quarters of play, and said this:

“Yeah listen, the game the other night was easy (to navigate). Seth (Curry) had it going. So you play the two-man game with Seth and Joel and spend time there. I think (Bogdan) Bogdanovic had done a good job. That was one of the switches they had done two games ago (put him on Harris), and it’s taking away some of his speed plays, that he has an advantage on bigs when they guard him. Bogdanovic is a pretty good post player and they’re doubling him on the post, so they’re taking that away. We believe we can get him going. I believe Tobias will have a pretty good (Game 6).” 

A small wrinkle, and one that wasn’t really talked about. Bogdanovic split time with John Collins in defending Harris on Wednesday night, and guarded him the majority of the time on Monday. In Game 3, that duty was split between Collins, Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari, and Solomon Hill.

Here’s video showing the last two second halves that Tobias has played:

What do you see there?

Probably some moments he could have gone hard(er) to the rack. Doc is right that Harris excels when he gets bigs on him, and can simply blow right by them. Other times he’ll shoot right over smaller guards. Atlanta seemed to do a better job at matching him physically and mitigating those disadvantages on their end.

The thing about Harris is that he was excellent in clutch time this season, with “clutch” being defined as any period in the game’s final five minutes where the lead or deficit is within five points.

If you go through the list of players who shot at least 25 clutch time field goals this regular season, Harris was the 8th best finisher, with a 53.1% field goal number. He also hit 21 of 23 clutch time free throws and was 4-9 from three.

In the postseason, he’s just 2-6, so that’s 33%, with one free throw attempt. The discrepancy is staggering.

Obviously Joel Embiid is the guy, and they want to close through him. Same with Seth Curry, who was red hot in Game 5. But Harris has done a lot of good things in fourth quarter scenarios this year and I’m kind of surprised he hasn’t been very involved.

Something to keep an eye on for tonight.

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