TORONTO — Next man up, the 76ers continue to say.
They said that a couple of weeks ago when Joel Embiid tore a ligament in his left thumb. They repeated it Wednesday night after Josh Richardson suffered a left hamstring strain early in a 107-95 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
An MRI Thursday, confirmed the injury. The Atlantic reported that it is a slight strain. The team would not confirm the severity of the injury, saying only that he’ll be reevaluated in about two weeks. That’s around the time it takes grade 1 (slight) strain to heal.
It’s no secret the Sixers are looking to add shooting/perimeter help before the Feb. 6 trade deadline or in the buyout market that follows. But Richardson’s injury adds to the sense of urgency to make a trade.
A team that was favored to reach the NBA Finals finds itself with two injured starters and in a disappointing sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 36 games remaining. The goal is to get a top-two seed to get home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
But right now, it’s all about the current roster.
“Somebody has to step up,” Ben Simmons said. “That’s everybody. One guy goes down, everybody has to step up.”
Simmons noted that Richardson is a big part of the team, offensively and defensively. The shooting guard is the team’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 15.0 points. Richardson, who often defends opposing point guards, is tied with Al Horford for third on the team in steals at 1.0 per game.
“So we’re going to miss him for however long it is,” Simmons said. “But it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and fill that role.”
Wednesday, the opportunity went to Shake Milton, who made his first appearance since playing 2 minutes, 34 seconds at Dallas on Jan. 11.
Against the Raptors, Milton scored nine points on 3-for-10 shooting — including going 3-for-6 on three-pointers — to go with four rebounds and two assists in a season-high 22:31 of action. It marked the 13th NBA game of the season for the second-year guard, who has been on several assignments to the Delaware Blue Coats of the NBA G League.
“Like Ben said, it’s next man up,” said Milton, who is averaging 4.3 points and 9.5 minutes and shooting 28.6% on threes this season with the Sixers.
“You don’t really want to see anyone go down with injury. But when your number is called, you’ve got to step up, just try to stay locked in, and my teammates kept encouraging me. So it wasn’t that hard.”