“You know the biggest difference,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “There was a guy named P.J. Tucker on Miami [last year]. There’s a guy named P.J. Tucker on our team now.”
By Tommy Matthews
Late in the fourth quarter yesterday, Sixers forward Tobias Harris attempted a deep 2-pointer, and P. J. Tucker snatched a rebound and made a second-chance layup, narrowing the Sixers’ deficit to one point and receiving a chance to tie.
Before Tucker took and made the foul shot with 1:05 left, he leaned in to Embiid, expressing that the MVP center is one of the most aggressive players in the league, and now’s the time to show it.
“Nobody can guard Jo one-on-one; there’s no way,” Tucker said, sharing what he told Embiid, who, by the way, suggested that the Sixers needed “someone like Tucker” after PJ’s Heat eliminated Philly last May.
“I’m sorry, it’s not any disrespect to Al [Horford] or anybody else, but I’ve guarded [Embiid] for a lot of years, and when he’s aggressive and assertive, it’s impossible.
“I saw him two plays in a row not do that, and we can’t have that. Not with the season on the line, we can’t have that.”
Afterward Embiid went onto to add four points in overtime and finished the night with a crucial assist to James Harden, who made the game-winning three.
“He just got on me,” Embiid said. “He said I need to be me. That was right [before] overtime. That’s when I got myself together, started thinking how I could attack them the best… I thought in that fourth quarter I kind of got stuck a lot of times.”
Tucker is a defensive specialist who finished with six points, three rebounds, and one assist. But his leadership, on and off the court, has shown to be more valuable for the Sixers.
“I know the work he puts in,” said Harden, who finished with a team-high 42 points. “You need that on your team if you’re trying to win championships.”