On Thursday night in the matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers veteran forward Tobias Harris was having a quiet night. With only six points in a little over 20 minutes of action, many might've forgotten Harris was even on the floor.
But once the Sixers veteran left the game with a mysterious injury, nobody could forget about him. Harris was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a knee injury. Following the win over the Mavs, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers admitted he didn't know too much about the injury.
The following morning, Harris underwent an MRI to see if he suffered any structural damage. It turns out he didn't. With the MRI results coming back clean, the 76ers confirmed Harris was dealing with a knee contusion. While the results were a good sign, the Sixers still had to play without Harris on Saturday night.
One would think the Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons-led Sixers could take care of a struggling Cleveland Cavaliers team at home with ease, but that's not how the night went. While Simmons and Embiid held up their end of the bargain as they collectively accounted for 66 points, their supporting cast didn't do much to help.
Typically, Tobias Harris is good for around at least 20 points-per-game. On Saturday, Philly didn't have the veteran borderline All-Star to rely on. Based on the results of the game and how everything went, it was clear Harris was missed.
“[We missed him] a lot, I mean, it’s Tobias Harris,” Ben Simmons said while chuckling after the game. “He’s the second-leading scorer on the team. You know, he’s a big presence for us, but at the end of the day, we gotta get those wins regardless of who’s out. That’s a win we gotta get.”
“That’s 20 and 10 pretty much. You miss him," Danny Green explained. "It’s another shooter, another scorer, a guy that gets to the free-throw line. He’s a bigger guy that can defend a little bit and rebound -- we got outrebounded tonight. So yeah, we definitely missed him tonight. Hopefully, he comes back soon. Regardless of who we have on the floor, who’s healthy or injured, we have to come out and play 48 minutes. There are no excuses; we gotta find ways to win.”
Without Harris on the floor, the Sixers started Furkan Korkmaz. The last time Korkmaz started, he fired off with 18 points as he got hot from beyond-the-arc. On Saturday, Korkmaz shot just 1-for-5 from beyond and clearly wasn't on his A-Game.
He wasn't the only one. Seth Curry and Danny Green combined, shot 4-for-22 from the field, totaling for 13 points. Without Curry, Green, and Korkmaz hitting their shots, the Sixers were barely a threat to Cleveland in the halfcourt -- and that's where Joel Embiid noticed the biggest difference without Harris.
“We saw [his absence] in the half-court," Embiid explained. "I thought, especially in overtime. Posting me up gave us a lot of looks. We scored a lot out of that, whether it was me or me kicking out the ball and swinging it to the other side, but it’s hard to keep on doing that. It becomes easier for the other teams to guard. Now, you have another perimeter threat like Tobias where you can give him the ball, run a pick and roll, and also post him. I think that’s where we missed him a lot, in the half-court offense.”
While the 76ers didn't want to use Harris' absence as an excuse for why they lost, it was evident they couldn't fill the void with Korkmaz, Mike Scott, or anybody else. The good news is Harris shouldn't be out for too much longer, but the bad news is his return might not be soon enough if the Sixers continue to struggle as they did on Saturday night against Cleveland.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_