This was the only highlight from Sunday night’s 108-97 Sixers loss in New York:

Go Birds!

The Sixers opened with a 35-point first quarter, then scored 18 in the second and 18 in the fourth against a Knicks team that had lost in overtime the night prior. They gave up 128 to the Clippers on Saturday night, then held Philly to under 100 less than 24 hours later.

Particularly wretched was the Sixers’ second unit, exacerbated of course by Doc Rivers going with all bench lineups at inopportune times. He said this about the backup unit:

“I didn’t think they played any defense and they didn’t pass to each other.”

“We’ve been good at that (going back to the bench in the fourth quarter). Just because one half doesn’t work doesn’t mean you vacate the unit. That’s what guys do who lose a lot. So, they didn’t play well, but honestly I didn’t think that’s why we lost the game. The game is not just explained by plus/minus sometimes. There’s more to that. Our starters came in and we still had the lead. I thought we were just not emotionally strong night, I thought they were the mentally stronger team and deserved to win. They played harder. They got everything. They were the more physical team. They were tougher.”

It certainly is hard to win if you don’t play any defense and don’t pass, and the starters absolutely needed to be better in the second half, but Doc has been stubborn with the all bench and/or heavy bench lineups during his Sixers tenure. With Embiid, Harden, Maxey, and Harris on this roster, there really isn’t a reason why all four of those guys should be on the pine at the same time. The Sixers only got four points from bench players not named Maxey, and Montrezl Harrell was a -15 in three minutes on the floor. Paul Reed was a -14 in eight minutes, so it’s the same issue it always is: when your MVP candidate big is on the bench, you’re always in danger of losing those minutes.

This is the same thing we’ve been talking about with Doc for three years now. He HAS to go into the postseason with a rotational plan. You can’t be throwing 10 guys out there in the second round. There has to be more experimentation in staggering, adherence to the on/off data, and the exhausting of combinations. Now’s the time to figure it out, because you can’t do what they did on Sunday night and expect to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Go Birds!