Sixers vs. Bucks: Doc Rivers plans to expand tired Sixers' rotation

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Rivers plans to expand rotation as Sixers meet defending champs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The 8-3 Sixers will hope to avoid their first losing streak of the season on Tuesday night. 

Unless any players unexpectedly return for the second leg of this back-to-back, the team will be without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe, all of whom are in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Seth Curry was listed as questionable on the 1:30 p.m. injury report with a left foot contusion.

Here are the essentials for the Sixers’ matchup with the defending champion Bucks: 

  • When: 7:30 p.m. ET 

  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 

  • Broadcast: TNT 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

White House hangover? 

The Bucks visited the White House on Monday and were honored by President Joe Biden for their 2020-21 championship. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers wouldn’t mind if it was a very joyous day.

“Hopefully President Biden (got) the Bucks to drink at the White House today,” Rivers joked after the Sixers’ loss to the Knicks. “But they’re going to be fresh. Think about it: they have a day off and we play them tomorrow.”

Though not as depleted as the Sixers, Milwaukee is missing three key players in Khris Middleton (health and safety protocols), Brook Lopez (back soreness) and Donte DiVincenzo (left ankle injury recovery). Former Sixer George Hill has been starting and former Delaware Blue Coat Justin Robinson has been coming off the bench for the 4-6 Bucks. Milwaukee has lost five of its last six games. 

Rookies seem set to play 

Jaden Springer and Aaron Henry wrapped up a joint workout over two hours before tip-off Monday at Wells Fargo Center. Based on Rivers’ postgame comments, one or both rookies will play Tuesday.

“Tomorrow we’re going to play 10 guys,” Rivers said. “We have to. I don’t know who that 10 is, but 10 guys have to play tomorrow. We’ve got to get our guys to the end of the game so they’re a little fresher.”

Four Sixers played at least 38 minutes against the Knicks. Tyrese Maxey has averaged close to 43 minutes over the past three games and was clearly one of the players who (understandably) had less in his legs than usual. Georges Niang, one member of the team’s three-man bench, was also among that visibly fatigued group. 

The hunch here is Henry will play, but we’ll see what Rivers decides. Henry has three years of college experience and was a highly regarded defender at Michigan State, which might make him more attractive in this unique situation than Springer, a one-and-done player. Charles Bassey is also available behind Andre Drummond and Paul Reed at center. 

Not much to choose from defensively 

All of the Sixers’ primary options to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo are sidelined. That was also the case the last time the Sixers faced the Bucks, an April 24 meeting last season in Milwaukee for which Ben Simmons and Embiid were both out.

The Sixers played a 2-3 zone at the beginning of that game and allowed the two-time MVP to post 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes. The Bucks won by 38 points.

Might Rivers show some zone Tuesday night? Milwaukee has only converted 33.0 percent of its wide-open three-pointers, 25th in the NBA, so perhaps the Sixers can have success packing the paint and surviving good Bucks looks beyond the arc. In a man-to-man scheme, Danny Green appears the likeliest to defend Antetokounmpo.