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Do the Sixers live and die by Tobias Harris’ three pointers?

Following an important win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day, the Philadelphia 76ers closed out 2019 with three straight losses against Orlando, Miami, and Indiana. At the start of the New Year, the Sixers find themselves with a 23-13 record. They are in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, eight games back from the number one seed, Milwaukee. They are only 2.5 games behind the 2nd place Boston Celtics.

Investigating the problem

Many people may think that the Sixers’ success depends on the health of Embiid. While this may be true in the long run, the Sixers have plenty of talent to win games without him. This season, the Sixers are 3-4 in Embiid’s absence. Clearly his occasional rest days are not dramatically affecting the Sixers’ record.

Defense has been a huge factor for Philadelphia. The Sixers defensively are allowing 105.4 points per game. That ranks 5th best in the NBA. Ben Simmons has looked like a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate, pacing The Association with 2.2 steals per game. The Sixers are 10-1 when holding opponents to under 100 points in a game.

The offense is where the inconsistency has persisted throughout the season. The team ranks 17th in the league with 109.6 points per game. This may seem contradictory to their 47 percent field goal percentage, which is 4th best in the NBA. That is because most of the Sixers offense runs through Joel Embiid around the basket. They are feeding him the ball, taking higher percentage shots in the paint, and chewing up the clock. Obviously a smart strategy when you have one of the best big men in the league.

So where exactly does the problem lie for this team? The near abuse of the paint puts more pressure on the team’s three point shooters to be perfect. The Sixers only attempt 30.1 three point shots per game, good for 26th in the league. Thus, the offense can’t generate more shots from behind the arc because Embiid’s post play slows everything down.

A possible solution

This brings us to Tobias Harris. Harris, who some may say he is the third option in this offense, plays the second most minutes, 34.1, and is shooting 33.9 percent from behind the arc. He attempts 4.6 threes per game. The former Clipper and Piston has proven he can shoot well over 40 percent from three with a bigger work load than what he has now. Between 2017 and the time he came to Philly, he was averaging 5.3 three point attempts per game and making them at over a 40 percent per clip.

In games the Sixers have lost in December, Harris has shot from 3:

3-8, 0-3, 2-6, 0-4, 3-8, 0-4, 1-3

In games that they have won in December:

1-5, 1-3, 4-8, 2-4, 1-3, 1-3, 3-6, 4-7, 5-7

In the 7 games that they lost, Harris never shot over 40 percent. In games they won, Harris shot over 40 percent in 5 games out of 9. If Harris can just find a little more consistency, it would go a long way in the Sixers’ race back to the top of the East.



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