Tobias Harris went from getting constantly scrutinized last season to being praised as a potential All-Star this year with the Philadelphia 76ers. Last year's critics didn't necessarily believe Harris was a lousy player. After all, he was one of, if not the most consistent player on the Sixers throughout the year.
The criticism came based on his inability to become a reliable player in crunch time. And when you mix that idea in with the fact that he was getting paid superstar money, Philly fans were disappointed in Harris as they wanted him to take over games when needed.
Harris heard the negative noise coming from the outside, and he used it as motivation. Now, he's playing some of the best basketball of his career during his second full season with the Sixers, and he's doing it every game in all four quarters.
A few weeks ago, Harris made it known he can be a finisher in crunch time as he drained a go-ahead bucket in the final seconds to close out a game with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. And since then, he's had a 'win by any means necessary' mentality when the fourth quarter rolls around.
This past Tuesday night, the Sixers faced the Sacramento Kings on the road. Through three quarters, the Sixers trailed the red-hot Kings 91-87. Joel Embiid, who had 15 points at the end of the third, was having one of his most underwhelming games this year. Harris, who also struggled through three quarters, produced just 10 points before heading into the fourth quarter.
Once the quarter began, though, both players flipped a switch. As the Sixers clamped down on the Kings defensively and held them to 20 points in the fourth quarter, Harris and Embiid went to work offensively.
The Sixers' big man collected 10 points in a little over nine minutes. Meanwhile, Harris shot efficiently from the field, knocking down four of his five shots (two from beyond-the-arc) for 12 points.
His contributions were good enough to put the Sixers ahead by eight points and win the game. Following the game, Harris explained his win-or-go-home mentality against the Kings late on Tuesday night.
“Fourth quarter time, I just wanted to do whatever I can to help the team win,” he said. “That was my whole focus in the fourth -- just eye on the prize of winning this game. I was able to get to my spots on the floor. I was able to find the energy that I needed on the defensive end and try to be in there getting rebounds and encouraging everyone else on the court at the time to stay mentally engaged in the game.”
Harris certainly didn't do it alone, but his teammates have acknowledged his value many times throughout the year. Although he's been solid since coming to the Sixers during the 2018-2019 season, Harris has definitely stepped his game up and looks better than ever these days with his closer's mentality.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_