Ninety minutes prior to tip-off in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and the starting five for the Philadelphia 76ers remains a mystery. Head coach Doc Rivers kept the jokes coming in his pre-game Zoom call with reporters, adding that adjustments are part of the game.
“Yeah, I know … just not going to say it out loud,” Rivers said about his starting five. “Each time a guy goes out it shortens what you want to do, it takes away some options, or it may introduce somebody else to the fold but we’ll see.”
UPDATE: Furkan Korkmaz will start for the Sixers in place of Danny Green in Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Speculation had centered all week on one of four players replacing Danny Green in the first unit: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, George Hill. All-Star center Joel Embiid was officially listed questionable with a torn meniscus in his right knee but he’s expected to play. Rivers commented on how injuries can sometimes make the team better by getting bench guys more minutes. His rotations vary on a game-by-game basis anyway.
“It’s always game by game,” Rivers said. “We pretty much know going in what we’d like to do but sometimes the game doesn’t go that way and you have to make the adjustments.”
Green suffered a right calf strain in Game 3 but tweeted that he would “be back in no time.” The timetable for his return has been put at two to three weeks.
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Tobias Harris, ‘The Quiet Star’
Tobias Harris might be the only non-All-Star in the Sixers’ Big Three but his contributions in the postseason have been dizzying. He’s averaging 23.6 points per game — up from his 15.8 career playoff number — while dropping clutch bucket after clutch bucket. Harris has been everything and more for the Sixers during this championship run.
“He’s been that way all year,” Rivers said. “I call him the quiet star. He just does his job, not very flashy in the way that he does it. But then after the game, you look at, who helped you? And the other team looks at, who hurt you? And Tobias’ name always comes up.”
Veteran teammate George Hill has played for eight different teams in 14 NBA seasons. Safe to say, he’s seen it all. He called Harris “one of his favorite teammates ever.”
“Just a great guy to be around,” Hill said. “He’s a big leader for us and we’re going to continue to lean on him.”
Hanging Their Hat on Defense
It’s no surprise that Rivers points to defense when talking about the Sixers’ calling card. They had three players — Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid — finish in the Top-12 for NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Still, the head coach thinks they could be even better on that end of the floor.
“Listen, you always want to be better defensively. I mean that’s who we are, that’s what we hang our hat on,” Rivers said. “We fully know the better we are defensively the better we are offensively. Each game you have to get better, each quarter you have to get better. This is the playoffs.”