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Getty Sixers forward Tobias Harris cited a lack of effort and mental toughness for their second-round exit to the Miami Heat.

Lack of effort. Mental toughness. Those were the two two biggest things missing from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. And maybe for the entire year to hear Tobias Harris tell the tale.

Harris started his post-game press conference after being eliminated in Game 6 by expressing frustration over the Sixers’ inability to win 50-50 basketballs, not chasing loose balls, and looking overmatched on hustle plays. More importantly, Philadelphia couldn’t match the Miami Heat’s physicality. Now Harris (14 points) and his teammates are going home following a 99-90 defeat. 

“We drop our heads too much, our body language at times was crappy and we needed that to be better throughout this series, and I think that hurt us in this series – our mental toughness for sure hurt us versus that group,” Harris told reporters. “And they did a lot of things to kind of challenge that, like hustle plays 50-50 basketballs like everything – the physicality by them as well. We needed to be better as a collective group of holding our head and just fighting and going right back at it, and I don’t think we did a great job of that.”

Tobias Harris says #Sixers lacked “mental toughness” and you can’t teach that. Miami had it, showed in their effort at chasing loose balls and getting second-chance points. #HereTheyCome

— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) May 13, 2022

That’s not something to simply brush off when evaluating a professional basketball team. Inner strength isn’t a coaching issue; that’s something players are usually born with. The Sixers didn’t have it.

“Truthfully, just lack of effort on our part,” Harris said. “Turning the ball over, didn’t get the type of looks or shots we would have wanted. That was kind of the flow all throughout the second half was the looks that we were getting weren’t what we needed to win a playoff game.”

Tobias Harris was fairly critical of the Sixers' effort in Game 6:

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 13, 2022

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Heat ‘Tough Guys’ Overmatched Sixers Everywhere

The Miami Heat have a culture built on toughness and fundamentals. It starts at the top with Hall of Fame president Pat Riley and trickles down the flow chart to head coach Erik Spoelstra and fiery leader Jimmy Butler. Their intense conditioning program is the stuff of legends. So, it was no shock to hear Sixers players talk about being overmatched physically.

“But I think the mental toughness could be a part of it but definitely the physicality,” Joel Embiid said. “It all goes back to ourselves. It goes back to myself, I got to be better.”

"Tobias Harris over me?" — Jimmy Butler after eliminating Philly ????

(via @Local10Sports)

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 13, 2022

The Heat put it all on display in Game 6. Points in the paint favored the Heat 62-48 while Miami dominated the rebounding battle: 13-6 on the offensive glass, 36-29 on the defensive glass. They trapped and swarmed all night, throwing two and three guys at Embiid and James Harden every time they touched the ball, and dictated tempo. Their largest lead was 20 points.

“When I say lack of effort they beat us on the glass,” Harris said. “They beat us on 50-50 basketballs, hustle plays, all around. And that’s not how we wanted to lose the game for sure.”

Sixers Had Enough Talent to Win a Championship

The Sixers battled through so much adversity during the 2021-22 campaign, stemming largely from the off-the-court drama involving Ben Simmons. They also endured a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined star players like Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green, and Tobias Harris. They still went 51-31 and ranked No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.

Yes, Butler has had bad playoff moments and playoff series too. It was about what was around him, just like what is on the Sixers roster now.

— Tyrone Johnson (@TyJohnsonNews) May 13, 2022

Looking back at everything the team went through this year, Harris believed they had enough “talent and firepower” to win a championship. That won’t happen as the Sixers head home early for the fifth straight postseason.

“Truth be told, every team goes through some sort of adversity, and honestly, everything we went through, we still had enough talent and enough firepower to fight for a championship,” Harris said after Game 6. “And we weren’t able to do that to the best of our ability. That sucks, and it’s disappointing. Everything that happened prior really doesn’t truly affect the present moment right now. We still had a golden opportunity to take advantage of this series and see where that led us, and we didn’t do it.”

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Tags: basketball nba breaking news 5 fast facts crime politics shopping in the eastern conference that’s not to win a championship mental toughness mental toughness pic twitter com lack of effort the miami heat tobias harris we needed we needed jimmy butler to be better went through goes back joel embiid harris said this series

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Dave Hyde: Jimmy Butler keeps telling you who he is and its more than 41 points in Heats Game 1 win

Every so often, just for a moment, Jimmy Butler will let you in. He’ll pull back the curtain and let you see who he is, how his mind and motivations assemble.

He mostly keeps that area closed off, opaquely answering he doesn’t care about random ideas like statistics, as he says night after playoff night.

Even if the question is framed that it’s known he doesn’t care about statistics, but his staggering ones Monday provided framework to the Miami Heat’s 118-107 Game 1 win against Boston, it’s met with a shrug.

He’s just out there, competing hard, reading the game, doing whatever’s necessary to win, as he says night after night. There’s no reason to doubt that answer.

It’s just that, every so often, he’ll show you more. He did at the end of the Philadelphia series last week, walking to the locker room and shouting in a send-off to his former team, “They chose Tobias Harris over me?”

Late Tuesday night, as he shut down the talk of his numbers — 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks — the physical nature of the series was mentioned and Butler perked up. This interested him.

“I like physicality,” he said. “Like, I want to run into people and see who falls down first, who is going to quit first. I think that’s the style of basketball I like to play. And so do (the Celtics).”

He mentioned one stat here: He was 0-for-2 from the three-point line in the game.

“I want to go 0-for-0 next game because I just want to keep banging into people,” he said.

There’s who he is, what makes him go, why his jersey is starting its rise to the rafters if this keeps going. The NBA Finals two seasons ago? His playoff run now? He had his fifth 40-point playoff game with the Heat on Tuesday night. Dwyane Wade leads the franchise with seven such games.

See what rare air he’s treading? When Atlanta and Philadelphia said they couldn’t match the Heat’s physicality in the playoffs, when Boston says it needs strongman Marcus Smart back, there’s a central reason.

It’s not just Butler, of course. The Heat’s smothering team defense took over Game 1 in the second half. Coach Erik Spoelstra made adjustments like stop switching players on Boston star Jayson Tatum. P.J. Tucker, then Victor Oladipo, held him to 1 of 8 shooting with six turnovers in the second half.

Boston went from 42 points in the paint in the first half to six in the second half. Butler outscored the Celtics in the third quarter, 17-14. He had two steals for lay-ups in a 22-2 landslide stretch, too. He closed the night with two blocks.

“My brother is playing beautiful basketball!” Wade tweeted. “It’s a joy to watch.”

It was Wade, remember, who told Butler to play for the Heat, that he’d fit here. Butler had three bad marriages with his previous teams. You know how Spoelstra always says of the Heat’s demanding and disciplined ways, “We’re not for everyone?”

Butler isn’t for everyone, either. He can be a handful. That spectacle in the time-out huddle with Spoelstra and Udonis Haslem near the end of the regular season shows as much. Some teams can’t handle that.

Butler fits the toughness and rough fabric that defines this team. What’s telling in this moment is all the conversation is about Boston’s loss of starters Smart and Al Horford. They’re important pieces, sure. You need everyone this deep in the playoffs.

You just hear little talk of the Heat missing starting point guard Kyle Lowry. He’s important, too. It’s just that Gabe Vincent has developed into a solid replacement. Vincent and Max Strus, neither drafted, outscored Boston’s starting guards, 28-27 in Game 1.

Tucker, despite twisting his ankle, locked down Tatum.

“I didn’t know I would fall in love with a basketball player as much as I have P.J.,” Butler said. “Seriously, because he just plays incredibly hard and then got the tough job every night of guarding the opposing team’s best player and then going down there and shooting the ball five times. Like, you got to respect that.”

Game 1 again offered the Heat’s toughness. It again offered Butler’s greatness. The two ideas are married. Boston, to use Butler’s analogy of basketball, fell down first, they quit first.

But there’s a long way to go in this series.


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