Good morning, 76ers fans. After a day off, the Sixers began practicing for this weekend’s playoffs. They will meet the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Indiana and Washington in Sunday’s first opening-round game.
The Sixers are using this week to get healthy but also crank it up in practice, a sort of a mini training camp. It will be the most practice time they have had since the preseason.
One player whose game took a substantial leap this year was Tobias Harris, who is looking to take what he did in the regular season and duplicate it in the playoffs.
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Entering the postseason with supreme confidence
This was the 10th, and arguably the best, season of Harris’ NBA career. He came close to being a 50-40-90 player, shooting 51.2% from the field, 39.4% from three-point range, and 89.2% from the foul line.
It will be Harris’ third postseason with the Sixers since being traded by the Los Angeles Clippers in February 2019. He had a strong first-round playoff series against Brooklyn in 2019, but his last two series — a seven-game heartbreaker in the Eastern Conference semifinals vs Toronto in 2019 and last season’s first round against Boston — didn’t go as well. Harris shot 14-for-58 (24.1%) from deep in those two series, including 2-for-15 in the four-game sweep by the Boston Celtics.
“I am not one that dwells in the past. I take a present-moment type of position,” Harris said after Tuesday’s practice. “All I can really focus on is where we are at right now, and it is an amazing opportunity to beat a team in the playoffs, to be a No. 1 seed. There are expectations with that.”
They are the highest of expectations.
“For us as a group, we have a mindset, we have a goal that we want to reach and achieve so if we were to sit here and worry about what happened last year, this organization, this ballclub has literally been flipped upside down to a new culture, new status, new confidence, new vibe, and here we are. It’s a great opportunity for myself as a player to be on this special of a team,” said Harris, who will turn 29 in July.
“It is a blessing, and this is the opportunity we have to do something great. So we are all looking forward to the moment when we can go out there and play and get ready to go.”
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Indiana and Washington battle to be Sixers’ first-round opponent
Indiana will visit Washington on Thursday in the final Eastern Conference play-in game to determine the Sixers first-round opponent. Both teams were involved in lopsided opening-round play-in games. Indiana crushed Charlotte, 144-117. Washington was outscored by 66-46 in the second half of its 118-100 loss at Boston.
The Indiana game was essentially over after the first quarter, when the Pacers held a 40-24 lead.
Domantas Sabonis just missed a triple-double with 14 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists. Oshae Brissett (who?) led the Pacers with 23 points.
In the second game, the Wizards couldn’t stop Jayson Tatum, who scored 50 points and hit all 17 of his free throws. Washington didn’t help matters by shooting 3-for-21 (14.3%) from three-point range.
“We couldn’t find the basket throughout the game on the threes,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said in the postgame Zoom interview. “We haven’t shot well all year, but we are not a 3-for-21 three-point shooting team.”
The Sixers were 2-1 this season against Indiana, losing their most recent meeting by 103-94 last Tuesday. Joel Embiid (non-COVID-related illness) was among four Sixers sidelined for the game. Against Washington, the Sixers were 3-0.
Wednesday: Western Conference play-in games
Game 3: (10) San Antonio at (9) Memphis, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4: (8) Golden State at (7) L.A. Lakers, 10 p.m., ESPN
Thursday: Eastern Conference play-in
(9) Indiana at (8) Washington, 8 p.m. TNT
Friday: Winner of Western Conference Game 3 at loser of Game 4, TBD, ESPN
Saturday: NBA playoffs begin
Sunday: The Sixers open their first-round series at home, opponent and time TBA.
Passing the rock
Question: How will Doc Rivers handle the sub rotation? All starters on the bench together during the second shift? — Jamie McGroarty from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Jamie. It is a really good one. My guess is that Rivers will start the second quarter with one starter and four reserves. Harris had a lot of success in that role this year. In addition, the Sixers really need a scorer with the second unit, especially with Matisse Thybulle and Dwight Howard in the game. Both are capable of scoring, but the Sixers don’t run many sets for either. So I see Harris on the floor with the reserves at least in the second quarter.
For questions contact Marc Narducci by twitter @sjnard or firstname.lastname@example.org.