Tobias Harris likely spoke not only for his 76ers teammates but his NBA brethren as well. Talking Monday after a rare practice, the Sixers forward talked about how difficult it has been to reach the finish line.
This is the final week of the regular season, and the Sixers (47-21) are on the brink of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. With four games left, the Sixers hold a three-game lead, so regardless of what Brooklyn and Milwaukee do, they will clinch the coveted top seed with two more wins.
The Sixers visit Indiana on Tuesday and Miami on Thursday before finishing up at home with games Friday and Sunday against Orlando. Right now, the Sixers don’t want to look too far ahead.
“We need to get those wins to lock up the No. 1 seed, and then from there we can discuss what’s the plan,” Harris said.
This season has been a sprint for all NBA teams. The Sixers will have played their 72 games in 145 days, and that includes a week off in March for the All-Star break.
The Sixers, and likely every other NBA team, are simply bushed. The Sixers just completed playing five games in seven days.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, I mean, when you are looking at the amount of games, so when you do get practice time, it is kind of dedicated to actually rest,” Harris said. “It’s more like individual instruction. Whereas, like a normal season, you have those two-day breaks. Those are frequent in the regular season.”
The Sixers last played on Saturday, when they won their eighth game in a row, 118-104 over the visiting Detroit Pistons.
“Now, you get a two-day break, like [Sunday], and it felt like a vacation,” said Harris, who is averaging 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Harris described Monday’s practice as “more like rest chill days and mental recovery days.”
Even coach Doc Rivers practiced some load management – on himself.
“I didn’t go [to practice] today,” Rivers said. “I felt like I needed a day off, so I let [assistant coach Dave] Joerger and the other guys go.”
Rivers said Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Joel Embiid didn’t practice. Thybulle injured his left hand diving for a steal in the third quarter of Saturday’s win.
In the official NBA injury report, Thybulle is listed as out against Indiana with left hand soreness. Embiid is listed as questionable with non-COVID related illness.
Milton is not on the injury report.
Furkan Korkmaz, who missed the previous three games with a right ankle sprain, did practice. He is listed as out for Tuesday’s game.
For George Hill, any day on the court with his teammates is beneficial. Acquired from Oklahoma City in a three-team trade on March 25, Hill injured his right thumb Jan. 24 and had surgery Feb. 2. He didn’t play his first Sixers game until April 19.
“I feel good. ... I’m still trying to get acclimated right, still trying to get in shape,” said Hill, who has averaged 5.5 points and 18.8 minutes in his 12 games with the Sixers. “Being off three months has been tough, especially not being able to use your hand.”
One thing that will help the Sixers is that, after Sunday’s game with Orlando, they will have a minimum of five full days off. The NBA playoffs begin May 22, although not all teams will open that day.
“We will have to figure out how to use that time wisely,” Rivers said.
The NBA announced that Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. game in Miami will air on TNT. NBC Sports Philadelphia will also air the game.