NBA

Rivers tells 76ers they are not 'really, really good' yet

By Sports Desk January 20, 2023

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers did not hide his frustration with certain elements of his team's play despite beating the Portland Trail Blazers 105-95 on Thursday.

The Sixers made it four wins on the bounce, all of which have been on the road, with Joel Embiid and James Harden playing key roles.

Embiid's 32 points made it the seventh game in a row he has reached at least 30, while Harden posted a triple-double of 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Sixers looked to be coasting at one stage, finding themselves 26 points to the good, but the Trail Blazers made life a little trickier towards the end.

Rivers' team got the job done as they improved to 29-16 in the East, behind only the Boston Celtic and Milwaukee Bucks, though he was certainly not completely satisfied.

He was particularly irritated by the Sixers' poor handling of the Trail Blazers' trapping, and he was not impressed by how spread out his players were.

Asked how they coped with respect to trapping, Rivers said: "Poorly, but we also took advantage of some of it as well.

"I didn't think trapping was that hard, our spacing was horrendous, and we're great at spacing most nights, but tonight we kept leaving two guys on the other end.

"I'm hoarse from yelling, just getting one to cut through and we basically didn't do it. We got away with three or four more than I thought they could've had. But that's easy to fix."

In letting Portland back into the contest somewhat in the second half, Rivers felt there was a hint of complacency in the Sixers' performance.

As such, he surmised they are still not at a stage where they can consider themselves anything more than a "good" team.

He added: "There's no lesson, the lesson is execute. I just thought we didn't.

"You get leads sometimes and they're hard, NBA leads shrink quickly and then you get complacent, and I think we did a little bit of that.

"But in that, one thing I like is we kept playing defense, and that's a good sign.

"I think we're good, and I think we can be really, really good. But we have work to do.

"We can't expect to come in and just show up and win, we have to go out and do something about it."

Nevertheless, with the likes of Embiid and Harden in their arsenal, the Sixers have the kind of star quality that can drag them through the mud even when they are not at their optimal level as a unit.

That is not lost on Embiid.

"I think from the beginning it was easy," he said of linking up with Harden, who joined from the Brooklyn Nets last February.

"When you've got two guys with high basketball IQs, you can figure it out everything easy.

"So, it's all about just playing off of each other. We've been doing a wonderful job of doing that."

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    Played in front of a vociferous group of spectators, the Storm/Waves game featured end-to-end action and almost constant lead changes in what many described as the game of the tournament.

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    Losing coach Rohan Robinson was naturally despondent.

    “Well, it’s simple. You could see the team prepared for us.  You play a team twice and you beat them, you can do so much and no more,” he said.

    “If you prepare yourself you will come out the victor. I told them if we cannot get a chance to prepare ourselves and we not playing together when things are tough we not going get through."

    The second match of the night between Horizon and Rivers went as expected with Horizon winning by 25 points as Bobby Gray scored 23 points in tandem with Rasheed Maynard and Asaad Wood, who each scored 19 points.

    They led at the end of every quarter and were ahead by as many as 35 points in the third quarter.

    Rivers outscored Horizon 27-17 in the fourth quarter but it provided little consolation.

    Rivers’ Anthony Ottley scored 24 with support from Ricky Shuford 17 and Tre Brewer 16.

     "It was a pretty good game. We have played them about four times. We weren't surprised that we were able to pull out another victory tonight, not really a strong opponent but nevertheless, we were able to pull a victory and I am proud of the team tonight" said Horizon’s coach Cleon Morgan.

    River’s coach Tesfa Milligen is hopeful his team can win third place on Sunday.

    “Unfortunately, another rough night. We still have one more game left which is for third place so hopefully we can put it together and play a full 48 minutes of competitive team basketball and come out with a W," he said.

    The third place -off and final will tip off on Sunday, January 29. The first match begins at 6:00 pm and the final set for at 8:00 pm.  The day's activity will actually start at 2:00 pm with several exhibition matches featuring high school girls and boys teams.

     

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