Doc Rivers didn’t want to reveal who will start in Danny Green’s place on Monday night.
The Sixers’ 3 and D veteran will be out for at least two weeks, after an MRI confirmed that he suffered a calf strain in the Game 3 win on Friday night. He’ll be re-evaluated around the 26th of June, according to a rough timeline provided by the team.
Green only played four minutes before leaving the game, and the Sixers inserted Matisse Thybulle in his place. That forced Doc Rivers to go a little deeper into the bench, with Furkan Korkmaz doing his part to fill the void with a 14-point effort in 27 minutes of play.
“It’s some of the unintended good consequences from having injuries in the regular season,” said Rivers of his bench stepping up. “We had so many guys out (on the floor) with Seth and Joel and Tobias and Ben, key guys, different guys from the bench have been in the starting lineup. So I think that serves us well. Everyone is ready. It’s also one of the things I said before the playoffs, with everybody talking about rotations and key guys and the reason you play a rotation as long as you can is because you’re going to need someone at some point to come in. Maybe it’s because someone’s not playing well or because of injury. We’ve had a little bit of both of those things. It’s served us well and we need to keep relying on them and keep letting them know that we trust them all.”
It’s certainly been contribution by committee, when it comes to the bench. Shake Milton was the guy in Game 2, pouring in 14 points on 5-8 shooting in just 14 minutes. Korkmaz paced the second unit in Game 3 and in Game 1, Thybulle went for double digits in the loss.
It would seem like Thybulle is the natural choice to replace Green in the starting lineup. If Rivers goes down that road, and then pulls Tobias Harris around the eight-minute mark for staggering purposes, you’d get a second unit that would look like this:
- George Hill
- Shake Milton
- Furkan Korkmaz
- Dwight Howard
And that right there would be a nine-man rotation with Tyrese Maxey available if necessary. Rivers has been back and forth with the all-bench lineups throughout the season, but tends to prefer staggering a starter into that unit, hence the early first quarter subs for Harris.
It shows how important Shake Milton’s Game 2 re-emergence is, because the Green injury makes his services now uber-important. If he remained out of the rotation the only other option would be to go to Maxey or Mike Scott with the second unit and/or trim the rotation down to eight, which Rivers seems averse to doing in the conference semifinals.
The other thing about replacing Green is that he’s been guarded by Trae Young on the offensive end. So if you put Thybulle in there, Young might have to be a little more aware of those backdoor cuts to the rim, instead of just hovering around a veteran catch-and-shoot three point taker. Likewise, if Korkmaz or Milton enter the starting lineup, the Sixers can hunt Young a little bit more and make him work harder on the defensive end.
Though, admittedly, the Sixers haven’t had trouble scoring in this series. If you wanted to make sure one of Ben Simmons or Thybulle was available to guard Young throughout the game, you would separate their minutes and bring Thybulle off the bench instead, which would leave Korkmaz or Milton to stick with Bogdan Bogdanovic defensively. The good thing is that there are a few options depending on how the Sixers want to approach this game tactically.
“It’s a decision we’re going to have to make, on what’s more important, the extra defender or the extra floor spacer,” Rivers said. “That was one thing with Danny, where he was so good defensively that you got a little bit of both. So yeah, we have to make that decision.”
You tell me – who starts in place of Danny Green?