With reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid still out with a knee issue, Tobias Harris took center stage for the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
He scored a season-best 37 points, two shy of his career high, as the Sixers defeated the Sacramento Kings 112-93.
The Sixers, who are 3-7 without Embiid this season, will host the Houston Rockets on Monday afternoon and look to Harris for continued leadership and production.
“Like I always say, he does it in a lot of ways,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse said of Harris after Friday’s game. “I thought he got some transition. I thought he got some touches around the basket on some good screening from guys. He certainly made a good amount of one-on-one buckets as well. He can score a variety of ways and I think he used all of them tonight.”
The sellout home crowd recognized Harris’ contribution, shouting “”To-bi, To-bi, To-bi.”
“It was fun hearing the crowd chant,” he said.
Tyrese Maxey added 21 points, Nicolas Batum had 14 and Mo Bamba chipped in with 11 and four blocked shots to help compensate for Embiid’s absence.
The Sixers’ defense against Sacramento was as good as it has been all season.
“Coach had a really good game plan,” Maxey said. “He did something different that we haven’t done before. I keep saying it, he keeps talking about his playoff toolbox and he pulled something else out again today. We are just going to keep digging into that and keep putting them in our back pockets and try to see if we could do something with it down the road.”
The Rockets will look to rebound following a resounding 145-113 loss on the road against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Cam Whitmore led the Rockets with 22 points while Alperen Sengun added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Dillon Brooks returned from an oblique injury that had sidelined him the previous nine games to score 12 points.
While the Rockets have dropped three of four, they’ll arrive in Philadelphia with a 19-19 record. Keep in mind that the Rockets won only 22 games all of last season.
Still, the Rockets were completely overwhelmed by the Celtics in every area.
“You gotta figure out with every single one of our players, defense comes first and the offense comes later,” Brooks said. “Right now in this week we’re not focused on that end.”
Brooks picked up his eighth technical foul of the season and the frustration was evident by how easily the Celtics continued to score.
“Try to will it out of players because defense is what keeps you in games,” Brooks said. “It’s what makes you play and ultimately is what wins your championships.”
Rockets coach Ime Udoka returned to Boston to face his former team.
Jaylen Brown poured in 32 points and Jayson Tatum added 27. Trying to stop the two All-Stars was an extremely difficult task.
Udoka said that he was quite unhappy with the defensive pressure against them as the Celtics shot 53.7 percent from the field.
“I would have loved for people to guard them (the Celtics) the way we guarded them tonight when I was here,” he said.
–Field Level Media
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