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Sixers notes: Nurse’s challenge is getting the right mix on the court

PHILADELPHIA — To welcome the New York Knicks on Thursday, Sixers coach Nick Nurse brought starting forward Nico Batum. Guard De’Anthony Melton is slated to return Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When Kyle Lowry made his debut halfway through the first quarter and 36 seconds later glided through the lane for a reverse layup getting the Sixers within 15-8, it sure looked like the Sixers had all the pieces they needed but the big guy. Get used to the names as well as a very fluid starting lineup of Batum at forward, Tyrese Maxey and Buddy Hield at guard, and Tobias Harris and Paul Reed in the frontcourt.

Center Joel Embiid isn’t going to be back until the middle of March, if at all this season as he rehabs a sprained knee. It means Nurse has his work cut out figuring out the best pairings and matchups he can with the guys who are healthy.

“You’ve got to get eight guys who can start,” Nurse said of life for a coach in the NBA. “And hopefully you’ll have five of those guys available.”

Nurse barely said that when Lowry exited in the second quarter with a headache and a split forehead after a collision with Jericho Sims, who dropped on top of him. Before the end of the first half Batum took a seat after picking up his fourth foul.

The Sixers are a work in progress as they enter probably their roughest patch of schedule that began with the Knicks, who are fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The second-place Cavaliers visit the Wells Fargo Center on Friday and on Sunday, the Doc Rivers-coached Bucks, third in the East, invade South Philly. Oh, and the Sixers take on the East-leading Celtics next Tuesday at TD Garden.

Other than that, Nurse is living the dream. For now, at least it looks like Maxey and Hield are the guards.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Nurse said. “I think we’re probably going to start Maxey and Joel when he gets back, and probably Tobias. I still think Batum’s a good fit with that group. Then that last spot, you still got Kelly (Oubre), Buddy. We could probably rotate and change. I don’t get too caught up in it. As you know, you’re forced to change your starting lineup about every other game in this league because of injuries.”

The Sixers don’t want to mess too much with Hield, as he averaged 22.5 points in his first four games with the Sixers, shooting 45% from three-point land while also averaging 7.5 assists.

How much the Sixers can expect from Melton is up in the air as he’s returning from an injury to his spine.

Swingman Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee, is out indefinitely for the Sixers.

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Bojan Bogdanovic, who was available at the trade deadline, scored 19 points in just the first half, canning all five three-point tries.

Hield, who the Sixers acquired, had five points. He missed four of five from beyond the arc.

It’s a small sample size but notable in that Sixers basketball operations chief Daryl Morey raved about Hield being the top player available before the trade deadline.

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NOTES >> Lowry returned after being stitched up … Knicks fan Spike Lee was at Wells Fargo Center … At one point in the first half four Villanova players were on the floor in Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo of the Knicks and the Sixers’ Lowry … The Knicks are missing a small army of players, especially forward Julius Randle, who was averaging 24.0 points per game. Randle opined recently that he may need surgery on his banged-up shoulder.

Source: Berkshire mont

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