Doc Rivers Explains Sitting Sixers Starter: ‘Why Have Him Out on the Floor?’

Doc Rivers

Getty Sixers head coach Doc Rivers threw the white flag during a 113-85 loss to Cleveland.

The Philadelphia 76ers can’t seem to catch a break with freak injuries this season. Starting forward Tobias Harris – fresh off a five-game stretch where he averaged 23 points – left Wednesday’s contest with an undisclosed illness. He was having a miserable shooting night when he left early in the third quarter.

Head coach Doc Rivers wouldn’t divulge exactly what was bothering him because Harris wouldn’t tell him. The decision to pull him was an easy one considering the Sixers were down by 30 points at the time. For what it’s worth, Harris had gone 0-for-7 from the field for 3 points. No reason keeping him in a lop-sided game.

“He kind of didn’t want to say anything so I found out in the middle of the game,” Rivers said. “Right when I found out, I took him out and told him to go in the back. We weren’t going to win the game. Why have him out on the floor?”

Rivers’ squad went on to lose to the Cavaliers 113-85 on the road in Cleveland. It was never close. The Cavaliers shot 60.8% when all was said and done, including a scorching hot 73% in the first half. It marked Cleveland’s first win over Philadelphia in their last five meetings. Hungry dogs ran faster, right? (That’s the motto of Cleveland native Jason Kelce anyway).

“They have pride. And you could feel them coming into the game,” Rivers said. “I told our guys before the game, ‘This is going to be hard game, alright.’ They’re fresh. They’re going to attack you. They do not want to lose to you again and if you do not have a great mental mindset tonight, it’s going to be a tough game and that’s what it was.”

Flush the Tape, Move on to Memphis

Flush it down the toilet. That was Rivers’ message to everyone during his post-game press conference. He’ll bury the tape in the backyard somewhere, or maybe throw it out the window of the plane on their flight down to Memphis.

“We’re not going to learn anything from this,” Rivers said. “We just throw this away and move on to Memphis, that’s how I felt.”

The Sixers return to action on December 2 at 8 p.m. against the Memphis Grizzlies. Rivers wasn’t joking about flushing Wednesday night’s tape, although he did admit to wanting to review it privately just to see if he could pinpoint what went wrong.

“Nothing. The list is too long, but there may be reasons for that,” Rivers said when asked if he could take anything away from the Cleveland game. “This is one I want to go watch the tape and see if there is anything we could have done differently.”

Rivers Blames Dead Legs, No Energy for Cleveland Loss

Philadelphia had played three games in four days coming into Cleveland. They won all of them, but the grind took a lot out of them. Remember, they traveled from Orlando to Philadelphia (865 miles in the air) and then hopped right back on a flight for Cleveland (363 miles in the air). They were exhausted mentally, in addition to having tired legs.

“You could see it early, we were dead, we were flat,” Rivers said.

Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 19 points, but he looked exhausted and overmatched. Shake Milton scored 14 points, with De’Anthony Melton adding 9. None of those guys brought any kind of spark to the court. Rivers started experimenting with different rotations and liberally doled out minutes. Nothing worked.

“You start changing rotations, you start throwing different people in – each guy you throw in was as bad as the other guy,” Rivers said. “It was just one of those games where I thought from the middle of the third is where I started thinking, how can I get guys rest? And guys who haven’t played like Joel, because of how big he is, let’s get him some more minutes in a row, so I literally was using the game for that, for the rest of the game.”

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