The NBA-leading Philadelphia 76ers having only a minimum of eight players due to Covid-19 safety protocols and injuries, lost 115-103 to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
The shorthanded Sixers, who fell to 7-3, were deemed capable of playing despite coach Doc Rivers’ concerns over an exhausted roster after stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons debuted on the 90 injured roster minutes before the revelation.
“We were told we were playing,” Rivers said before the game after speaking to NBA officials.
Rivers did not use Mike Scott, who missed the last four games with a bruised left knee, but dressed up for the 76ers to have a minimum roster.
“I don’t think we should (play) but it’s not for me to express it,” Rivers said. “I am worried about the health of our players. ”
Cameroonian star center Embiid was sidelined due to strain on his back while Australian guard Simmons was absent with a stiff knee.
“With the minutes that we would have to ask (of Embiid), it would be foolish to play him,” Rivers said.
Seth Curry was absent after testing positive for Covid-19. Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and Vincent Poirier were also missing as part of the NBA Covid-19 contact tracing and security protocols.
“I trust the league and I trust the doctors when it comes to health,” Rivers said. “I’m more concerned with health on the ground. ”
The exhausted Sixers started veterans Dwight Howard and Danny Green alongside rookie guards Isaiah Joe, Tyrese Maxey and Dakota Mathias.
All three rookies played over 40 minutes for the Sixers, with Maxey scoring a record 39 points on 18 of 33 shots plus seven rebounds and six assists.
Gary Harris led Denver with 21 points while Nikola Jokic added 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
The loss ended a 20-game winning streak for the Sixers in their home arena, going beyond last season’s Orlando bubble with matches before the virus ended last March.
The Nuggets made their first six shots and took a 12-2 lead. The Sixers hit back at 28-26 after the first quarter and stayed 58-51 at halftime, but fatigue set in and Denver pulled away in the second.
The Nuggets were without Michael Porter, who is in quarantine due to Covid-19 security protocols.
“They felt he was safe enough to play,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “To be honest, I think we’ll start to see more. ”
© 2021 AFP