The top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers beat the Washington Wizards 125-118 in Game 1 of their NBA playoffs first-round series.
Ben Simmons has scored just six points but his coach believes he was “special” in the matchup.
The Sixers have two All-Stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons but Tobias Harris showed they might have their own big three worthy of winning a championship by sinking a play-off career-high 37 points.
Embiid added 30 points as the hosts won despite Simmons going 0-6 from the free-throw line – but he still contributed big time with 15 rebounds and 15 assists.
“He created so many points for us,” coach Doc Rivers said of his Australian superstar.
“I thought he was special tonight. Whoever he guarded struggled scoring.”
Simmons became the sixth 76ers player to record 15 or more assists in a playoff game and the first since Allen Iverson in 2005.
Harris scored 28 points in the first half, making a case that Philly has three big stars that could rival the superstar trio of Kevin Durant-James Harden-Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
The eastern conference top-seeded Sixers needed Harris’ outburst to offset an upset-minded Wizards team that were within five points with 45 seconds left.
Bradley Beal scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook had 16 – but neither sensational scorer took over in long enough stretches needed for an upset.
Westbrook even stepped out of bounds with 37 seconds left, cutting off a potential rally.
Unable to create consistent offence outside of Harris, the Sixers finally put together a 3-point barrage late in the third quarter that had 11,160 fans – roughly half-capacity – sounding as if it was 20,000-plus packing the house.
Harris, of course, hit a tying 3, Seth Curry hit his first, Danny Green buried one and Curry pounded his chest and talked smack after another three made it 88-81.
The fans erupted soon after in a “Trust the Process” chant with Embiid at the free-throw line, and the Sixers closed the quarter with a 99-93 lead.
The Sixers hung on for their first playoff win in two years.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.