Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers likes to reply particular questions.

Case in level: When he’s requested to pinpoint a side of the Sixers’ play that almost all stands out to him throughout any stretch of the season, Rivers typically tells you he doesn’t know.

With the Sixers on the quarter pole of the NBA season, Rivers was requested that very same query by a reporter in Orlando on Sunday. This time, he had a response prepared.

“Our resilience,” Rivers stated. “When you lose James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid and you win three out of four, that tells you a team is connected and believes it can be a really good team.”

That sums up the feel-good state of the Sixers. Without their three finest gamers this previous week, the Sixers took three out of 4 video games. The lone defeat, in Charlotte on Wednesday, got here at an enormous relaxation drawback and fairly may very well be termed “a schedule loss.” To end the week, the Sixers blew out Orlando by 30 factors and shot 64.9 p.c from the sector. That is their highest field-goal proportion in any recreation since 1986 when groups had been taking 5 3-point makes an attempt per recreation on common and never the 27 the Sixers hoisted Sunday.

The resilience side that Rivers talked about is actual. Even if the competitors wasn’t nice (even on the highway, it wasn’t) and opponents proceed to brick 3s at an unsustainably excessive charge, the short-handed Sixers outplayed their opponents the complete week. It was a exceptional factor to look at. The affordable objective in such a scenario is to mitigate the injury, and as an alternative, the Sixers function gamers carried out like stars and picked up victories. For a crew that has its sights set on one of many Eastern Conference’s high seeds, banking all these short-handed wins is an enormous increase.

Rivers tends to do his finest work when the Sixers are short-handed. That was the case final season, and but once more the veteran head coach has overseen an unexpectedly robust stretch of basketball. The crew bought contributions up and down the lineup as effectively.

What else did we study in regards to the Sixers this week?

Georges Niang has been greater than a shooter

“Bang, bang, Georges Niang!” is the decision from NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Kate Scott at any time when Niang knocks down a 3-pointer. Scott has stated that early and infrequently this season, with Niang taking pictures 44.9 p.c from past the arc on 9.8 makes an attempt per 36 minutes.

That is the lethal mixture of each quantity and accuracy from Niang, who’s the primary particular person to inform you he’s on this crew to area the ground and make 3s. But Niang, somebody who had the offense largely run by him at Iowa State, is extra well-rounded than your run-of-the-mill taking pictures specialist. He is taking pictures 56 p.c on 2-pointers up to now.

Niang’s nickname is “Minivan,” so he’s not often blowing by defenders or enjoying above the rim. But he understands driving angles, makes use of his power in searching for out contact and is a artful finisher. One manner you will note Niang put the ball on the ground occurs on slot drives when his defender is simply too targeted on the ballhandler on the high of the important thing.

Whether that’s Embiid or Shake Milton, Niang can preserve defenses trustworthy if defenses shrink the ground to that extent. And he additionally offers some trash-talking on the aspect.

Paul Reed is studying persistence on offense

There is not any query Reed offers extra on the defensive finish than Montrezl Harrell. Although Harrell additionally contributed on the journey, Reed’s defensive playmaking ought to in idea give him the sting over Harrell within the backup heart competitors as soon as Embiid returns. But the important thing for him is on offense.

Reed must be an sufficient playmaker. He doesn’t need to be Nikola Jokić; he simply must preserve the ball transferring to the following station. On the set play beneath, the ball is meant to go to Furkan Korkmaz on the dribble handoff earlier than Reed units a down display for Niang. How do I do know that? Look at Rivers’ and Korkmaz’s reactions when Reed doesn’t try this.

Rivers known as a timeout in frustration shortly after that pick-six. But then a humorous factor occurred, because the Sixers went on a 42-17 run till Reed subsequent subbed out.

Reed had 18 factors and 5 assists over the weekend. Some of the performs had been flashy like bullet passes to Niang and Tobias Harris immediately after rebounds or a monster dunk over Bol Bol. But it’s performs just like the one beneath, the place Reed stays beneath management and calmly finishes, that he’s beginning to make extra routine.

The lesson right here is that Rivers might want to stay with the occasional ballhandling miscues due to the third-year large man’s defensive acumen and the methodical progress he’s making on offense. And to his credit score, he has over the previous few weeks. Reed performed 15 straight minutes on Sunday.

The Sixers at present are the third-ranked protection within the NBA. Three-point taking pictures luck apart, the defensive connectivity and execution had been wonderful all through the week. And within the beginning lineup, P.J. Tucker (nonetheless not scoring however contributing to profitable) and Melton have significantly stood out.

Melton has 14 steals over the previous 4 video games, and he will get them in numerous methods. He baits the skip move to the alternative nook and intercepts it.

Melton strips opposing ballhandlers clear. And he makes performs between these two extremes, like when he shrinks the ground and baits Terrence Ross into the turnover beneath.

Danuel House Jr. finishes an enormous dunk on the opposite finish. For a crew missing star creators, Melton’s protection has led to invaluable low cost factors.

Shake Milton has earned a rotation spot

For the Sixers, there have been constructive contributions from many locations this previous week. Harris has been a rock, even whereas coping with nagging accidents. House and Korkmaz are beginning to contribute as effectively, showcasing the depth that the Sixers believed that they had coming into the season.

But if there was one breakout star from the previous seven days, it was Milton. As was written last week, his means to not solely tackle extra utilization however enhance on it’s uncommon for an eleventh man. His averages over the previous 4 video games: 22.8 factors (59-50-94 taking pictures), 7.8 assists to 2.5 turnovers, 6.8 rebounds.

Since Milton has been enjoying wonderful basketball for longer than 4 video games, he shouldn’t be the eleventh man anymore. At least, not until he performs his manner out of it over a sustained interval.

In some methods, Milton would be the bellwether for essentially the most attention-grabbing basketball query the Sixers have confronted all season: What will the offense appear like when Embiid, Harden and Maxey all come again? No, Milton or Harris mustn’t have the ball of their arms as a lot as we noticed this previous week, however there’s a completely happy medium. Will the ball motion be improved from earlier within the season? The Sixers have function gamers able to making the occasional play after they’re given a bonus. Limiting these gamers to strictly 3-and-D roles looks like a waste.

There are two methods a crew may be tough to protect. It can have overwhelming offensive expertise or a mode of play that places stress on the protection. The Sixers have the previous, however will probably be as much as Rivers and the star gamers to determine the latter.


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(Photo of Tobias Harris and Paul Reed: Julio Aguilar / Getty Images)



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