3 observations after Harris leaves with injury in Sixers' win over Mavs


The Sixers improved to 14-2 at Wells Fargo Center and 22-11 overall Thursday night, but they saw a key piece leave early in their 111-97 win over the Mavericks. 

Tobias Harris exited the game in the third quarter. The 28-year-old was diagnosed with a right knee contusion, the Sixers announced, and did not return. 

“I think they’re going to do some tests in the morning to make sure it’s structurally fine, and then go from there," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. 

Harris, who missed three games earlier in the year because of health and safety protocols, is clearly an important part of the Sixers’ big-picture plans as a late-game scoring option besides Joel Embiid. He entered Thursday’s game with averages of 20.7 points on 61.3 percent true shooting, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. 

Durability has been a hallmark for Harris, who played 72 of 73 regular-season games last year and appeared in all 82 games during the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons. 

Embiid led the Sixers with 23 points on 5-for-20 shooting and had nine rebounds and four assists. Ben Simmons posted 15 points and seven assists. He was also instrumental in holding Luka Doncic to 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting and four assists. Doncic had seven of the Mavs' 22 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Sixers turned it over a season-low eight times.

The Sixers' next game is Saturday night against the Cavs. Here are observations on their win over Dallas: 

Embiid vs. an old friend — for a half 

With Kristaps Porzingis out because of lower back tightness, Boban Marjanovic started his first game of the season. He caught up with some familiar faces pregame, as did former Sixers Josh Richardson and Trey Burke.

Marjanovic conceded a substantial edge in agility, meaning Embiid could comfortably take just about any jump shot he wanted. His shooting struggles from the Toronto mini-series lingered, though, as he missed his first four mid-range attempts and six of his first seven shots overall. 

Despite that, the Sixers fared well against Dallas’ big starting lineup, earning an 11-5 lead. Nobody other than Doncic seemed to pose a serious challenge to the Sixers, and Simmons’ defensive talent meant it wasn’t necessary to send risky double teams. 

Embiid was bound to find a groove eventually, and he did in the second quarter. Both Embiid and Simmons were great on both ends of the floor as the Sixers closed the second period on a big run to take a 16-point lead into intermission. 

Dallas scrapped its large lineup in the second half, using James Johnson and sitting Marjanovic, and that adjustment was mostly effective in limiting Embiid. More frequent double teams helped the Mavs, too. While plenty of Embiid’s misses were looks he’d typically expect to make, Maxi Kleber and Johnson were better able to contest Embiid’s shots and play bothersome defense than the 7-foot-4 Marjanovic.

“He missed some great shots," Rivers said of Embiid. “I would take most of the shots he took. He’s got to get away from trying to draw fouls and just go get fouls. But, other than that, I’m not that concerned.”

Simmons’ impressive defense on another star 

Simmons was very strong against Doncic, at times guarding him tightly near half court and disrupting his usually brilliant pick-and-roll game while avoiding fouls. Rivers overturned what was initially called Simmons’ first foul with a rare challenge in the second quarter as replays showed Simmons had stripped Doncic cleanly. Doncic’s skills and savvy tend to enable him to get where he wants, but that didn’t happen because of Simmons. 

Any matchup vs. a star is a chance for Simmons to work toward his stated goal of winning Defensive Player of the Year, and he helped his case Thursday. A steal on an unsuspecting Willie Cauley-Stein and ensuing pass to Embiid for a fast-break dunk was the highlight of the game. Simmons is athletic, versatile, proud, instinctive and 6-foot-10. Not a bad blend of attributes for a defender. 

Simmons actually wasn’t the team leader in steals. That was Seth Curry, who picked up three and had a good night overall with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Richardson, the player Curry was traded to Philadelphia for (along with the 36th pick), had 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting and six rebounds in his return to Wells Fargo Center.  

“Never (anything) personal," Curry said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for a lot of those guys over there. I just think they made a bad business decision, but it happens all the time. It was what it is. Another night to go out and get a win, play well as a team. That’s the ultimate goal, is to get a win. It was good to see a lot of my guys over there on the other end of the floor and just catch up, and then play a game.”

Second unit gets the job done 

The Sixers turned to an all-bench unit of Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Mike Scott and Dwight Howard at the end of the first period. Isaiah Joe later briefly replaced Thybulle when the second-year wing was whistled twice for fouling Dallas jump shooters.

Rivers had recently admitted his hesitance to use such lineups, noting it was necessary to have Embiid, Simmons or Harris on the floor at all times, but perhaps he felt his bench had a better chance to buy him a few passable minutes with Milton healthy again and Korkmaz confident after his 19-point game Tuesday.

The second unit ultimately held its own, even though the offense wasn’t always fluid and there were clear defensive vulnerabilities. Howard converted an and-one following an offensive rebound and did it again shortly after off a nice pick-and-roll dish by Milton. 

When Milton isn’t handling the ball and dictating the action, the Sixers’ bench has often looked lost offensively. Milton’s shots aren’t yet dropping the way he’s used to, either — he went 4 for 13 Thursday — which makes life tougher for the Sixers. He was sharp as a playmaker, though, and had six assists.

“I thought it was his best point guard night," Rivers said. “I think Shake basically has been a scorer for us. Tonight, I thought he was a great passer for us and got everybody else going. ... I’m very proud of that. That’s one thing we’ve been really working on, is being a better passer, and tonight I thought he was fantastic.”

Howard scored 14 of the bench’s 46 points, and he also recorded eight rebounds and three blocks. Scott knocked down a pair of three-pointers and was solid as Harris’ second-half replacement. 

“He was awesome tonight," Rivers said of Howard. “He did it against a small lineup, a big lineup. He dominated the glass. When he plays like that and is focused like that, he’s fantastic. This is one of the best games he’s had for us — and he’s been good overall. But tonight, I thought he really stood out.”

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