PHILADELPHIA — Over the course of 76 regular-season games, Nets guard Joe Harris ranked first in the NBA with a .474 three-point shooting percentage. Not Steph Curry, not James Harden, nor any of the other big-name stars in the NBA. Former NBA castoff Joe Harris did that.
But after playing a key role in the Nets’ Game 1 victory over the 76ers in their first-round playoff series when he scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including a 3-for-4 performance from three-point range, Harris’ shooting touch from distance has abandoned him. Over the next three games, he went 0-for-12 from three-point range, including an 0-for-6 effort in the Nets’ Game 4 loss that gave the 76ers a 3-1 advantage and a chance to clinch the series in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
No one is blaming Harris for where the Nets stand in the series, but there is no denying his missing jump shot is a major part of their recipe for success. In fact, this is the first time since January 2017 that Harris has gone three straight games without making a three-pointer.
"I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good looks, especially the last game,” Harris said after practice on Monday. “Maybe rush a little bit more so than previously. But these last few games, I’ve kind of progressively gotten better and better looks. The first game was obviously the best, but they changed up stuff defensively.”
It’s a tribute to Harris’ importance that 76ers coach Brett Brown adjusted his defensive coverage to limit his three-point shooting after Game 1. Brown installed a top-lock coverage scheme where, instead of chasing Harris around screens set to free him behind the three-point line, the Sixers stationed a defender next to the screener and facing the basket so he could prevent Harris from going around the screen.
The effect was to hold him to a total of six three-point attempts in Games 2 and 3 and force him to settle for mid-range jumpers or drives to the rim. Asked if his shooting slump has been tough to handle mentally, Harris said, “I feel like it comes and goes. Obviously, it’s more magnified now, but I have stretches in the season, too, where I miss a bunch of shots over the course of five games. This just happens to be much more high-pressure and attention on it.
“A lot of it for me is, where did I get my shots from? Were they open looks? And if that’s the case, then, I feel pretty good about it. I felt pretty good about the looks I got in our last game. Hopefully, I can get the same looks [in Game 5] and just get a couple more to go down.”
At times, Harris looks almost automatic when he’s on fire from three-point range. When he’s hitting, it spaces the floor and creates driving room for teammates D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. In Game 4, it almost came as a shock to the system when Harris missed two wide-open three-point attempts in the final quarter, especially one from the right wing with 5:31 left that would have given the Nets a nine-point lead.
That was the 12th straight miss from three by Harris, and he admitted, “Yeah, I certainly feel it. When you’re going through a game and you miss your first couple, you definitely put a bit of added pressure on yourself, and there is that sense of frustration. You’ve got to block it out and realize what I’m trying to do is just get open looks. You kind of put however many makes you’ve had in the past to the side. You can't let it build on itself and dwell on it.”