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Sixers Notebook: Nick Nurse offers closing time endorsement for Tobias Harris

NEW YORK — It’s been a while since a Philly sports coach finished a hotly contested game with a $39 million starter on the bench.

Yet that’s what occurred when forward Tobias Harris sat out the final 4:12 of the Sixers’ 105-104 play-in win over the Heat. Harris had nine points, 10 rebounds and an awful airball on a three-point try not long before exiting the game.

Harris played 32 minutes, two under his season average, largely because Nick Nurse found the closers he wanted in Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nico Batum. Nurse blew it off as a coincidence then but added a footnote this week when asked how comfortable he was with that group in a closing role.

“I thought Tobias played so hard that he kind of got to ‘E’ on the tank,” Nurse said. “We had him in for a long time for some matchup reasons and we just couldn’t seem to get him out of there. They had their guy in there, too. And I just felt like man, he really needed a rest and that group managed to play well together. A lot of that is just kind of the feel of what’s going on and I imagine that’s going to stay the same. Even with Kyle (Lowry) it was like, should we put Kyle back in or not? It was a tricky one. And we did and he made a couple great plays.”

In other words, this probably won’t be the last time you see that lineup.

To be sure, Harris started Saturday with the Sixers opening their best-of-7 first-round series with the Knicks, who love to push the tempo and play Maxey-fast.

Nurse said his roster has “six, seven guys down the stretch, depending on who we need at both ends of the floor” that he’d feel comfortable finishing games. It sure seems like Harris is No. 6, with Buddy Hield probably seventh.

There have been reports Harris might not be retained by the Sixers, who offended the fanbase by signing him to a five-year, $180 million contract instead of breaking the bank for Jimmy Butler. Though Harris has the dubious distinction of being the highest-paid NBA player not to make an All-Star team, his role changes as rapidly as the injury report.

Right now, however, Harris’ greatest value is as a defender. He can guard anyone on the floor, even bigs in a limited time.

Harris also turns 32 in July. The flip side is that he averaged 17.2 points and 6.5 boards in this, his 15th season, and that’s above his career averages of 16.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Harris drilled a three-pointer on his first shot and he screamed at the Sixers bench when the players stood up and applauded. What happens from here on out – even for a man with Harris’ scoring skills – is a matter of how Nurse feels down the homestretch.

• • •

Scary moment for Embiid in the first half. With 2:45 left in the half, Embiid threw the ball off the backboard, grabbed it and dunked, only to land awkwardly on his left leg.

Exhausted, Embiid laid on the floor for several minutes before walking off on his own power to the locker room.

Embiid scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds but the Sixers trailed, 58-46, at the intermission. He returned for the second half.

• • •

Another scary moment for Maxey and the Sixers with 7:34 left in the first half, when Knicks guard Josh Hart rolled into Maxey after a missed shot, pinning his right foot and tweaking the knee.

Maxey stayed in the game but was in considerable pain for a few moments. Maxey almost is as big a key to the Sixers’ success as Embiid.

“His speed is a major concern,” Knicks coach Tom Thibedeau said of the point guard. “He gets downhill to the rim. His shooting has really improved. You combine those two things and it’s a lot. We’re going to have to guard him with our whole team … as we will with Joel.”

• • •

Knicks superfan Spike Lee showed up Saturday at Madison Square Garden,

Among the other VIPS on Celebrity Row were former Knicks John Starks and Larry Johnson, Steve Schirripa of The Sopranos and Blue Bloods, and Juan Soto of the Yankees.

Source: Berkshire mont

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