The Philadelphia 76ers are down 0-1 to the Miami Heat after a 106-92 loss in the opener on Monday night. That result wasn’t particularly surprising with Joel Embiid sidelined with an orbital fracture after he was still in Game 6 against the Raptors after that seemed to have long been decided, but the manner in which they lost Game 1 was particularly frustrating for Sixers fans.
Doc Rivers made the decision to start DeAndre Jordan, who did not play in the Raptors series, in place of Embiid, and as has often been the case this season, Jordan’s minutes did not go particularly well. The Heat opened the game on an 18-6 run in the first four-plus minutes with Jordan on the floor, and by the end of the game he had posted a -22 in just 17 minutes of action. While single-game plus/minus isn’t always indicative of performance, the Sixers were pretty dreadful on both ends of the floor when he was out there, compared to showing signs of life in his absence, particularly when they went small to take the lead before halftime.
For fans hopeful that maybe the team would go to a different look in Game 2, Rivers shut the door on that in his postgame press conference, defiantly saying he’ll start Jordan again no matter how frustrated fans are with that choice — and that the players wanted that to be the case.
Doc Rivers: “We like DJ. We’re gonna keep starting him whether you like it or not.” #Sixers
— Ky Carlin (@Ky_Carlin) May 3, 2022
Rivers on the decision to start Jordan: “We talked to our guys, they wanted a big guy, a big roller…we also love Paul, but we also don’t want him in foul trouble”
Says they’re going to continue starting Jordan and players advocated for it more at halftime
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) May 3, 2022
The Sixers are in a pretty terrible spot here, because there’s not a particularly good option with Embiid out. The lack of a quality backup big has been an issue all year, and their efforts to address that midseason in acquiring Jordan and Paul Millsap were failures by the front office. Paul Reed gives them more than Jordan on both ends, but he also picked up five fouls in 13 minutes, which has long been an issue for him this season.
It’s undoubtedly a tough position to find yourself as a coach, but being this defiant after the loss and not even being willing to say something like “we’ll look at the tape and see what we can do better” certainly won’t endear Rivers to an ever-growing segment of Sixers fans that are upset with his handling of the roster and rotations. Going small worked wonders to end the first half, and while it’s certainly not a guarantee that would be successful as the main plan of attack for the Sixers, the unwillingness to try and instead to choose the option that has been pretty bad all year doesn’t look great. Noting that the other starters wanted to stay big makes clear that the team was hoping to be able to run some of the same things and not have to make too many drastic changes to what they do with Embiid out, but part of the job of a coach is to make those tough lineup decisions even if they might not be as popular with the players if it gives them the best chance to win.
Philadelphia has plenty of areas needing adjustments and improvements before Game 2, most notably their three-point shooting, but we can rule out a starting lineup change to try and address those.