Even though his team is running out of players, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers realizes he must get creative.
The depleted Sixers battled but fell 103-96 to the New York Knicks on Monday. They have little time to rest with another home game looming Tuesday against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
“We’re going to play 10 guys,” Rivers said. “I don’t know who the 10 is, but we have to.”
The Sixers played without Joel Embiid, who tested positive for COVID-19 and will likely be out for 10 days.Also absent for the Sixers were Tobias Harris, Isaiah Joe and Matisse Thybulle for health and safety protocols. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) has yet to play this season.
Andre Drummond had 14 points and 25 rebounds, which softened the loss of Embiid. Drummond’s 25 rebounds were the most by any Sixers player since Charles Barkley also grabbed 25 on March 24, 1987.
The Sixers parted ways with Dwight Howard and added the 28-year-old Drummond in the offseason. Eight of Drummond’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
“It’s something I pride myself in,” Drummond said of rebounding. “I came into the NBA wanting to be the best at it.”
The Sixers also received 19 points from Furkan Korkmaz, 16 from Tyrese Maxey and 15 from Georges Niang in a balanced effort. Despite the lack of depth, the Sixers trailed by one in the final five minutes.
What will be difficult is repeating the effort against the Bucks.
“We have to. We have no choice,” Rivers said.
The struggling Bucks will look to avoid a third straight defeat.
After winning the NBA championship last season, the Bucks have scuffled with six losses in their opening 10 games.
Khris Middleton, the team’s second-leading scorer, has been out for the last four games after testing positive for COVID-19.
In the Bucks’ most recent game, they fell 101-94 to the Washington Wizards, the first stop of a five-game road trip. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 29 points and 18 rebounds, Grayson Allen added 19 points and Bobby Portis had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Thus far, the Bucks hardly resemble the defending champions.
“It obviously doesn’t feel good, but at the end of the day, it’s about building good habits,” Antetokounmpo said. “As long as we’re building good habits, I’m seeing guys taking shots they’re supposed to take, guys diving on the floor, rebounding the ball, making the right play, that’s what we need to care about.”
The Bucks visited the White House on Monday and met President Joe Biden as they were honored for their championship.
On Tuesday, it’s back to business as the Bucks attempt to reverse their surprising losing trend.
“Because at the end of the day, the playoffs is 72 games away, and we have 72 games to get better, keep building good habits,” Antetokounmpo said. “And hopefully we’re in a good place mentally, physically, everybody healthy at the right time and play good basketball. That’s when you want to play your best basketball.”
–Field Level Media