The Sixers beat a depleted Raptors side on Tuesday night behind big performances from Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, who went for 36/11/4 and 19/12/10, respectively. For Harris, it was his first career triple-double, and the pair combined to go 25-28 from the foul line in the five-point win.
There was mumbling and griping on social media because the game probably should have been put to bed sooner. Toronto returned Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. to the lineup, but missed Fred Van Vleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and others due to COVID protocol. So after the game, Keith Pompey at the Inquirer had a lengthy exchange with Doc Rivers stemming from a question about his level of concern regarding close games against undermanned teams:
Dumb question. Doc also dumb. Everyone is dumb pic.twitter.com/ZL786LuysP
— Drew Smith (@drewmsmith) December 29, 2021
Doc is right when he says that a win is a win. You’ll take a W however you can get it, and they all count the same. It’s the NBA, and you’ve gotta play a bazillion games all jam packed into a schedule that isn’t favorable to the players and coaches. Even during non-COVID years guys are continuously in and out of the lineup because of load management and injuries and other assorted bullshit.
But it’s a valid question at the same time because Keith is just echoing what every fan is talking about on social. They’re wondering why a stronger Sixers side seems to have issues putting away these COVID-depleted teams (see: Atlanta Hawks last week). In regard to this game, the Sixers were up by 12 in the fourth quarter and Toronto came all the way back to take the lead. Philly needed free throws to ice it.
Therefore, the winner of this exchange is neither. There’s nothing wrong with Keith’s question and nothing wrong with Doc’s reply.
Keith is one of the few traveling Sixers reporters, and when I say “few,” there’s what, maybe 1-2 at most on the road? Usually it’s one Inquirer person and then Rich or Derek from The Athletic would go on the long road trips, but now Derek is doing his own thing. Ky Carlin does some traveling (edit – the new Inky writer, Gina, is also traveling). But Keith’s job is to keep it real, and while it can come off as negative asking glass-half empty questions following a win, he’s just talking about the same topics fans are talking about. What do you want him to say? “Hey coach, good win, can you talk about it?” People would bitch about that, too.
Doc is well within his right to be annoyed with that line of questioning after a win, but at the same time, we know Doc doesn’t like to be challenged. This is the same coach that scoffed at and belittled the media last year for asking about the possibility of taking Ben Simmons off the floor during the intentional fouling routine. And then guess what Doc did? He took Ben off the floor.
So Doc should expect that he’s going to get these kinds of questions. People aren’t high on this team, they are down on this team. They are barely staying above .500 and Ben Simmons continues to hold out. Keith’s line of questioning there matched the casual fan discourse surrounding the 2021-22 Sixers, and Doc responded in a reasonable way.