When forward-center Al Horford scored near the basket with 4 minutes and 51 seconds left in the first half of Thursday’s home matchup with Brooklyn, it ended a goose egg for the 76ers reserves.
Before that basket, the Sixers reserves had been outscored 23-0 by the Brooklyn substitutes.
It was 23-5 at the half, with former Sixers Wilson Chandler and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot combining for 14 points.
As dramatic as that early advantage was for the Nets, the Sixers reserves led by Alec Burks came back in the second half and did their share during Thursday’s 112-104 overtime win over the Nets.
In the end, the Sixers reserves were outscored 38-34, but they took control in the second half and overtime.
Sure the Sixers were playing without Ben Simmons, out with lower back tightness. The Nets, were without six-time all-star Kyrie Irving. Before the game the Nets announced that Irving would be having season-ending shoulder surgery.
So, the depth of both teams was tested. For the Sixers, even when Simmons returns, the team will need production from its bench.
Raul Neto started at point guard for Simmons, and for somebody who had played a total of 3 minutes and 12 seconds in the previous four games, he didn’t look out of place.
Glenn Robinson III started in place of Horford, who came off the bench for the second straight game. According to coach Brett Brown, Horford is expected to continue his reserve role.
Robinson’s two-way ability intrigues Brown. In the previous game, a 110-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in the final game before the All-Star break. Furkan Korkmaz started but was held scoreless (after scoring 65 point the previous two games.)
Brown is impressed with Korkmaz’s three-point ability. He entered the game shooting 39.2% from three-point range, and while he struggled in the first half, he would score four fourth-quarter points.
Another player who intrigues Brown on the offensive end is Burks, acquired with Robinson from Golden State during the Feb. 6 trade deadline. In the first half, Burks played 12½ minutes and attempted just one shot, a three-pointer that he made.
If Burks is going to be on the court, he has to take more than one shot in 12 minutes, since his defense isn’t a difference maker.
Burks was more aggressive in the third quarter. The Sixers looked for him more, and he created his own shots, hitting a three-pointer off the dribble and a short runner. He had nine third-quarter points and finished with 19 to lead the reserves.
“It just came my way,” Burks said about having more chances after halftime. “I don’t know if anything changed, I wasn’t forcing it up....”
Joel Embiid, who carried the Sixers with 39 points and 16 rebounds, says Burks is a major addition to the team.
“Since we got him, I felt that was another guy that could create his own shot,” Embiid said. “You set up a screen and put him behind the three-point line and he is not afraid to take that shot. We need that and haven’t really had that the last couple of years and it is a good sight to see...”
Brown even used Shake Milton at point guard in the second half after not playing in the first. He is sometimes a forgotten player, but when called upon, such as against the Nets, he has been a solid performer.
Milton finished with five points and a plus 12 rating.
By the end of the third period, the Sixers, who trailed by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, were down 78-77.
Bench scoring through three quarters: 27-19 Nets, but the gap was closing.
Through four quarters, it was Nets reserves, 38-27.