OKLAHOMA CITY — Doc Rivers said he moves on pretty quickly after losses.
Friday night’s demoralizing loss in New Orleans was a thing of the past for the 76ers coach when his squad entered Chesapeake Energy Arena Saturday night to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I’m looking for us to be the 76ers every night,” Rivers said before beating the Thunder, 117-93. “And [Friday] night, we were not that. Nothing I can do about that now. It’s in the past. If it becomes a trend, you hope to have some practices.
“But that’s about it.”
Well, the Sixers went back to playing like themselves Saturday, even without starters Tobias Harris and Danny Green.
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Seth Curry and All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid all had bounce-back games.
Embiid finished with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocks one night after struggling to score 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting. The MVP candidate sat out Saturday’s fourth quarter.
Simmons scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting. But perhaps his best stat was zero turnovers one night after committing six. He was also the only starter to play in the final quarter, making a token 2-minute, 35-second appearance.
Curry struggled on three-pointers, making just 1 of 5 shots. However, his night was much better than Friday when he was held scoreless for the third time this season. Against OKC, Curry had 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting overall to go with a game-high six assists.
Furkan Korkmaz also had an active effort in his sixth start of the season, finishing with a season-high 20 points and a career-high five steals.
With those four leading the way, the Sixers improved to 36-17. They pulled into a tie atop the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets lost, 126-101, to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
“It was a good win for us, a good professional win,” Rivers said. “These guys are down on guys. You know, they are playing a bunch of young guys. We needed to take care of our business. I thought we did that.”
For the Thunder (20-33), the game marked their sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games.
Green was sidelined with left-hip soreness. It was the first game the small forward has missed all season. Meanwhile, Harris, a power forward, was out with right-knee soreness.
Green did a light workout on the court before the start of the game. Neither injury appears to be serious. Rather, they were more like maintenance days against one of the league’s worst teams during a grueling season.
The Sixers started Matisse Thybulle and Korkmaz alongside regular starters Curry, Embiid, and Simmons.
The tanking Thunder were without several players: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis in his right foot), Josh Hall (concussion protocol), Isaiah Roby (concussion protocol), and former Sixers Al Horford (shut down for remainder of season) and Mike Muscala (sprained right ankle).
Horford and Gilgeous-Alexander are arguably the Thunder’s two best players.
Oklahoma City’s Tony Bradley had 16 points and 14 rebounds in his first game against the Sixers after they traded him to the Thunder on March 25. The three-team trade enabled the Sixers to get George Hill from OKC.
Rivers’ lasting memory of Bradley will be his being “just a pro, man.” The center shedded 20 pounds as a Sixer after they acquired him in a Nov. 23 trade from the Detroit Pistons.
“First of all, he’s a terrific kid,” Rivers said. “He’s the type of kid that you want on your franchise, you want to keep in your franchise if you can.
“He worked his butt off.”
The Sixers gave Bradley, who was a third-stringer, a game plan to make him become a better player. Rivers said you’ll be surprised with the number of players in Bradley’s situation that won’t listen, opting instead to do their own thing.
“Tony wasn’t one of those, man,” he said. “Just a fantastic kid, and he’s young. I think a lot of people forget how young he is.
“So I think he has a bright future in the league. He’s one of those guys you would love to coach again.”
Bradley was embraced by former Sixers teammates, coaches, and staff members before the game. Green walked on the floor during a third-quarter timeout to hug Bradley.