Brett Brown rarely puts Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the bench at the same time.
And by “rarely,” I mean I can’t remember the last time it’s happened, outside of the head ball coach emptying the bench in the fourth quarter with his team leading by 25.
But that was the case last night, a stretch of about 90 seconds in the fourth quarter when both guys were off the floor in a tight game. Brown was asked post-game by Kyle Neubeck if he pulled both guys because they were fatigued:
“I did, and I hate doing that. But I did, and we’re aware of it. And I thought with Joel, you’re looking out, and there were a few trips that he made where I wanted to get him out a little bit earlier than I normally do, then bring him back, but the decision to do that as a group is painful. You just had a gut feel that we needed some juice at the end. Fortunately it came good. Without Jimmy Butler, you do struggle at times finding a symmetry with the normal substitution patterns that we have, but we did it, it was something we were all aware of, it was for a minute and 30 seconds, or 20 seconds, it wasn’t a long time, but enough for you to ask that question and enough for me to feel it, too.”
A follow-up question, if Brown felt like the game might have been lost during that span, when the Spurs built their lead to eight points:
“I didn’t. I didn’t feel it was dramatically. Did I like doing it? Not really. I felt that we were just running out of juice and I wanted to save it for the end. That’s what we did and it came good.”
There’s your explanation, so you can do with it what you will.
For what it’s worth, Joel played 37 minutes last night, which is the most he’s logged since Christmas Day in Boston. He was able to get a shorter shift on Monday because the Sixers were beating the brakes off the Rockets. Joel, as you know, is dealing with back soreness and tightness and the Sixers are trying to manage his minutes while still compiling wins. That’s hard to do when the schedule gives you four straight games against the Pacers, Thunder, Rockets, and Spurs. And the next four are all on the road, against the Nuggets, Lakers, Warriors, and Kings.
Simmons is averaging 33.3 minutes per game but played 35 last night, so both guys were called upon to do a bit more as the Sixers found themselves in a close one late, a game in which they ripped off a 10-0 run to steal a home court win.
That’s it. That’s the entire story. I just wanted to share those quotes.