Selflessly, the Sixers scored to make a long playoff run

PHILADELPHIA — Spend enough money, wait enough years, make enough trades, and get a little lucky in the draft, and it’s possible for an NBA team to build an All-Star roster of talent.

This is the first tip.

The second is to do what Doc Rivers did in the Sixers’ first two games of the first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors: make it work.

Although the tournament had barely begun, the Sixers pulled off two double-digit wins for one reason above the rest: the many shooters in their starting lineup were willing to share the ball, the scoring responsibility and the glory. of the box score.

“It’s a bit of a continuity feature,” Rivers said. “Toronto makes you move the ball. It’s a great defensive team. They will run around and trap. They’re going to try to ruin the game. And if you’re not ready to move the ball and play with each other, they’re going to be effective.

In a 112-97 victory in Game 2, all five Sixers starters scored in double figures, with three – Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey – shooting at least 56% from the field. In the 131-111 Game 1 success, four starters reached double numbers, with Shake Milton adding 10 more as reserves.

Although Embiid led the NBA in scoring, he was only the Sixers’ leading scorer in Game 2, when he scored 31. In Game 1, he finished fourth with 19, while still swooning selflessly and successfully from Toronto’s long-awaited double. triple teams.

Who will lead the Sixers in scoring in Game 3 on Wednesday night in Toronto?

Choose one.

“We can’t care who it is,” Rivers said. “We just have to spray the ball. And I think we do.

Balanced scoring is not a revolutionary concept. But Embiid and James Harden have combined to win three of the last four NBA scoring titles. Given that both have top scorer status, it was Rivers’ job to ensure they complemented – not competed with – each other. As Rivers encouraged Harden to be more aggressive on the attacking end, the three-time scoring champion realized he was surrounded by enough shooters that he didn’t have to force the attack to win the only thing missing. to his CV: a championship.

“I just try to make the right plays, man,” Harden said. “When you have a guy like Tyrese and he’s on a roll, you have to make sure he gets hits.”

Not that the combination of Maxey and Seth Curry in the backcourt wasn’t entertaining and productive, but Harden proved to be the perfect point guard to maximize Maxey’s skills. Over the two games, Maxey racked up 61 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, joining only Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady and Magic Johnson in being as productive in two consecutive playoff games before turning 21. .

“You have two guards, so you have to make a decision,” Maxey said. “Do you want to change? Most of the time they don’t want to leave James’ body and give him space. If they don’t, I go down. If they change, then he has a match or I have a match. We just try to come down and make games for ourselves and make games for others too.

Among the Sixers’ surprises across two games is the revival of Danny Green, who joined the starting lineup late in the season when a Sixers-Raptors first-round streak was likely looming. With Matisse Thybulle ineligible due to Canadian COVID vaccination requirements, Rivers sought continuity in the lineup. Able to pull away as the Raptors focused on Embiid and others, Green hit three three-pointers on Monday and scored 11 points.

All season, Rivers promised that his rosters would change from time to time and that he was undecided about his playoff rotation. But three-time NBA champion Green resurfaced as a pesky fifth starting option. Scorers Milton and Georges Niang can help from the bench, as can defense-conscious Thybulle. Replacement center Paul Reed was part of the nine-man rotation.

The Sixers are hoping for a long playoff run. The way starters are going without ego issues suggests it’s possible.

“If you’re willing to do that,” Rivers said, “then you’re going to get some good shots.”

And good shots to win.

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