The Philadelphia 76ers got a little healthier recently as they welcomed back Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle back from being out a week due to the league’s health and safety protocols. They then entered the weekend road trip on Saturday without Joel Embiid and Mike Scott due to injuries.
The result was a tough 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday where they committed 22 turnovers with 12 coming from Ben Simmons and Shake Milton. It has been tough sledding for the Sixers lately as they have had to handle playing shorthanded without some of their main pieces due to both the protocols and injuries.
Despite all of that, coach Doc Rivers is not going to allow his team to make any excuses due to the fact that this was a winnable game on Saturday.
“It’s not who played tonight, for me, it was how we played,” said Rivers. “I thought we were a sloppy basketball team and when you play that way, you deserve to lose the game. On the road 22 turnovers, I would say of the 22, 15 were unforced. Just sloppy driving into traffic, cross-court passes interior passes where they should have gone out, and then I also thought we had a stretch where there was no ball movement as well.”
The Sixers and the rest of the league knew what they were getting themselves into with this season considering the global COVID pandemic. They cannot use that as an excuse to not win games such as this one.
“I’m now letting our guys use excuses,” Rivers said bluntly. “We got to get away from that. Listen, this is gonna be an extraordinary year through COVID, injuries, get over it, and win the game. Find a way to win the game. This was a winnable game tonight. I’m not gonna let the fact that Furkan (Korkmaz), Seth (Curry), and Joel if you just think and know our team, tonight, this game should have been won by us. That’s the mentality we have to have. We can’t accept ‘Well, we’ll be good when everybody’s here’. That’s unacceptable.”
The Sixers have been without Korkmaz since his injury on Dec. 26 and they have not had Curry since he tested positive for the virus on Jan. 7 so Philadelphia needs to figure it out. It isn’t like this wasn’t expected when this season began.
“It’s been a weird year,” said Tobias Harris. “At the end of the day, we do need each other. We need each other’s games. We are together, the five starters, who complement each other in the way that we do play. It’s easier said than done ‘Why can’t you win when one guy isn’t playing?’”
On the flip side, this is an opportunity for the Sixers to fight through adversity and grow as a team. Things like this will happen to every team at some point.
“Collectively, as a group, we do have to figure it out,” Harris added. “This is going to be a season that presents different obstacles so it’s only going to either make us great or this allows us to make excuses.”
Philadelphia will hop on the plane now and head to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Sunday where they will also be missing Embiid and Scott. It is another opportunity to grow.
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