While the play of Ben Simmons clearly stood out in the Sixers opening 107-93 win over the visiting Boston Celtics on Wednesday, Tobias Harris quietly enjoyed a strong performance in his first opening-night game for the Sixers.
Harris ended with 15 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. It was the second time since being acquired by the Sixers in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 6 that Harris had at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game.
The other occurred in a 131-115 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of last year’s opening playoff round when he totaled 29 points and 16 rebounds.
Against Boston, Harris shot 6 for 11 from the field and 2 of 5 from three-point range. He also had four assists, but also committed four turnovers, so things weren’t always smooth for him and his teammates. Through the first three quarters the Sixers shot 3 for 21 from three-point range before going 4 for 8 in the fourth quarter.
As the opener showed, the Sixers with two new starters Al Horford and Josh Richardson, and with Harris in his first full season with the team, are still getting used to playing together.
Harris, who was primarily a power forward last season, is now the Sixers starting small forward, so there will be an adjustment period for the entire squad. That was certainly the case against the Celtics.
“I think we are going to continue to identify how we are going to play,” Harris said after the game. “Night after night it is going to be different matchups for us.”
The Sixers got favorable matchups, but as the three-point shooting showed over the first three quarters, they didn’t often take advantage of them.
“When you look at the talented group we have over the course of the year, there will be a lot of open looks, a lot of mismatches we can go to in the course of a game,” Harris said. “Just being able to find where the spots are in the flow of the game, is the biggest thing.”
Harris took a while to get into the offense.
In the first quarter he shot 0 for 2, but contributed in other areas until his offense got going.
“I found a way to get to the glass, to be able to get rebounds and push it and just to be able to make open shots,” he said.
Harris, who is listed at just under 6-foot-8, has the ability to shoot over smaller defenders. He is adept at shooting off the dribble and eventually both skills helped.
The Sixers finally broke the game open when consecutive threes by Furkan Korkmaz and Harris extended their lead to 83-73 with 8 minutes and 56 seconds left. At that point, the Sixers maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
While the Sixers were truly impressive on defense, holding Boston to 36.7 percent shooting, the offense remains a work in progress.
Even though all five starters scored at least 15 points, only Harris and Ben Simmons (11 for 16) shot at least 50 percent.
The Sixers will likely take awhile to feel comfortably offensively. Coach Brett Brown said so afterwards and Harris agrees.
On this night, when he wasn’t getting shots early, Harris looked to contribute in other ways.
“I think with everybody we have on this team there is going to have to be a balance that is going to have to be figured out throughout the whole year,” Harris said. “With me, my mindset was to try to do whatever I could to uplift the team and try to do whatever you can to help the team win.”