Sixers Lose to Pistons: Did Doc Rivers Blame James Harden?

James Harden, Doc Rivers

Getty James Harden was introduced at a press conference on February 15, 2022. He'll wear No. 1 for the Sixers.

James Harden endured a rough shooting night during a 102-94 loss on Thursday night. He went a brutal 4-of-15 from the field while turning the ball over three times. Harden couldn’t buy a bucket – or dribble out of trouble – in the fourth quarter for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers’ bench was outscored 39-8 by bottom-swelling Detroit. Harden was on the floor with the second unit for a long stretch as Joel Embiid rested. He couldn’t carry the load alone, prompting Doc Rivers to make a statement that will be blown out of context/proportion for weeks.

Rivers defended his bench guys while seeming to lay blame at Harden for not adjusting to a switching Pistons’ defense. For whatever reason, it went viral.

“Well, they didn’t struggle, they didn’t get a lot of shots, in their defense,” Rivers told reporters, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think during that stretch it was more James [Harden] than them. So, you know, yeah it’s just a tough night.”

Don’t go misinterpreting what Rivers meant. Or start comparing the comment to what he said about Ben Simmons after last year’s playoff exit. His quote about Harden wasn’t articulated properly, a trailing thought. It was total lack of commitment across the board.

“We played with very little life tonight,” Rivers said. “Didn’t play together tonight at all, that’s something we’ve been doing. It’s just one of those nights, but tough one.”

Harden finished just short of a triple-double: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists. He started the contest like a hurricane, then cooled off when inserted with the bench unit. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid continued to state his MVP case with 37 points and 15 rebounds. Tobias Harris added 14 points in a tough road loss that dropped them to No. 4 in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sixers trail the Heat, Bucks, and Celtics with six games left.

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Sixers Not Worried About Playoff Seeding

If the season ended today, the Sixers would be facing the Chicago Bulls in a first-round playoff series. It doesn’t and no one seems to care about how the final seedings shake out. Rivers knows it’s going to be “tough sledding” for everyone in the East.

“We love where we’re at but there’s so much work to do,” Rivers told reporters on Tuesday night. “That’s why I don’t ever look back a lot, you know this is going to be tough sledding for everybody. We all see it, the East is stacked. Who do you want to play? No, no, no. They’re all good. So it’s just the way it is and you just have to be ready to play.”

Rivers did point to two squads in the dance to keep an eye on. The Bucks and Suns – last year’s two championship finalists – are coming in battle-tested and ready.

“I look at Milwaukee and Phoenix, in particular, and I think those two teams are ready,” Rivers said. “If the playoffs started today those two teams know exactly who they are. They know exactly what to do, they’ve been through the fire, no one else has.”

DeAndre Jordan Replaces Paul Millsap

One of the storylines from the Sixers’ 118-116 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday was the absence of DeAndre Jordan. He saw zero minutes as Rivers went with Paul Millsap against Giannis Antetokounmpo. He wanted a smaller, more athletic lineup to mix and rotate. It didn’t work.

“I thought Millsap in the first half was good,” Rivers said. “I thought in the second half he struggled.”

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Against Detroit, Rivers went back to Jordan who saw 10 minutes in relief of Embiid. He had 2 points and 1 rebound for a -9. Millsap didn’t play in this one. And Paul Reed checked in with less than a minute to play to supply an extra big body and rebounder.

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