PHILADELPHIA — The first half of the Sixers’ regular season is over, capped Thursday by a 133-114 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Despite the defeat, they are 25-16, largely healthy, winners of six of their last eight and lingering in the Eastern Conference’s higher tier.
Doc Rivers will take it. He will also take it in stride.
“I think we’re going to be really good,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, so we are a work in progress. I like our team.”
The Sixers are built to be good, with four highly paid veteran starters and an experienced bench, a well compensated coach and a thirsty fan base. But in recent weeks, they had been even better. Yet just when they thought they had some things figured, they allowed the Thunder to score 52 points in the paint and shoot 43.8 percent from the arc.
“That was just a bad effort from our team,” Rivers said. “And we all – me, everybody – have to take responsibility and be better.”
That was Rivers’ stance after the game, as it was before, when he insisted the Sixers are not yet whole.
“That’s everywhere,” he said. “Everywhere. I think you can go through 30 coaches and they will tell you the same thing. Our work never stops. We look at both sides of the floor. We’ve made defensive runs throughout the season where we’ve been great. We’ve had stretches offensively where we’ve looked great. We just have to keep moving and getting better.”
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Naturally reluctant to stray from what has worked, Rivers went back Thursday to his preferred starting unit of Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey and P.J. Tucker.
While he has been firm in support of that unit in the past, he has leaked recent hints that as he continues the work progression, something could change in the second half of the season, with De’Anthony Melton continuing to rise enough in depth-chart status to win the occasional start.
“We like him in both roles,” Rivers said. “He’s an elite defender and we know that. But on the other hand, when you put Tyrese and Tobias and that group out there, they are elite offensively. So we’ll see.”
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Just before the crack of the regular season, the numbers not aligning correctly, the Sixers needed to waive 2020 second-round draft pick Isaiah Joe.
And that would have been the elite-shooting Arkansas product showing up with the Thunder Thursday averaging 13 minutes, shooting 46.1 percent overall and 43.5 percent from deep, then scoring seven points in 16:05.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He was waived after training camp, and camp is critical for your team coming together. So he had limited opportunities to show what he could do. So he was kind of at the back of the line. But early on, every time we threw him out there, he was ready to play. He plays defense. He competes. He plays inside the team structure. And the more opportunity he got, the more he rose to it.”
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Shai Gilgious-Alexander, who entered ranked fourth in the NBA with a 30.8 scoring average then scored 37 points, began his career playing for Rivers with the Clippers.
The 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft averaged 10.8 points as a rookie before a trade to Oklahoma City.
“When he came into the league, he played at an NBA pace already,” Rivers said. “You can see that. His ability to change pace and speed and finish through contact is what makes him really good.
“I don’t think anyone saw him as a potential 30-point-a-game scorer. But I did think he was a potential All-Star.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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