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Tobias Harris’ short-lived return presents yet another hurdle for the shorthanded Sixers

The Sixers have had nine different starting lineups through their first 17 games. Tyrese Maxey is the only player to start every game. Only Maxey and Georges Niang have played in every game.

Sixers forward Tobias Harris strained his left hip late in Saturday’s game in Portland.
Sixers forward Tobias Harris strained his left hip late in Saturday’s game in Portland.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Before the 76ers played the Sacramento Kings Monday night, Tobias Harris was asked how they’re dealing with being shorthanded because of a recent rash of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s obviously been tough just because of the circumstances of everything,” Harris said. “Health being on the main front of them. So I think everybody, the best that we are doing in figuring out on a nightly basis how important each and every play is on both ends of the floor.

“There’s positions to grow. At the same time, we have to be able to stay with it and stay together until we get the whole group back.”

Hours later, the Sixers announced they would play without Harris, their standout power forward, because of a strained left hip, and shooting guard Seth Curry due to back stiffness. They were already without starters Danny Green and four-time All-Star Joel Embiid. And that doesn’t take into account that disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons has yet to play.

So all five starters from last season’s squad were unavailable in a 102-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.

» READ MORE: Shorthanded Sixers grind out victory over Sacramento Kings | Analysis

The Sixers, who keep preaching next man up, did get key reserve Matisse Thybulle back for a second game. But they appear to always be dealing with a lack of able bodies.

Before his night off to heal, Harris acknowledged it would be good to get Embiid back, but he noted the Sixers have still been in good positions to win games.

Monday marked the eighth game Embiid has missed since testing positive for COVID. It’s unlikely that he’ll join the Sixers on Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors for the final game of their six-game road trip. However, he’s back working out at the team’s practice facility in Camden.

The Sixers are 2-6 without Embiid during this stretch and are 3-6 overall in games he’s missed.

Thybulle (seven games), and Isaiah Joe (six) had also missed games due to COVID. This marks Green’s second time sidelined with left hamstring tightness. Monday marked his fourth game out this time after missing three earlier in the season.

Shake Milton (four games, sprained right ankle), Furkan Korkmaz (one game, right wrist soreness), and Andre Drummond (one game, sprained right ankle) have also missed time. Monday marked the second game Curry missed this season. He missed the first one with a left foot contusion.

With all these players out, the Sixers haven’t been able to get any rhythm.

“These last 10 games, every night we’ve had three, four, five guys out,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s just something you go through. You don’t worry about it. I can’t. I have to try to get guys ready for the game.

“At least you believe at some point things will work out, and we’ll all be back.”

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid’s return from COVID-19 protocols could be near for Sixers

The Sixers also hope that certain reserves, receiving minutes they normally wouldn’t, will benefit from their extended minutes.

They also hope that they will find ways to score without Embiid and Harris, the team’s leading scorers, on the floor.

Harris strained his left hip late in Saturday’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers. The goal is for Harris to rest up Monday night and see how his hip feels on Tuesday. He didn’t seem too optimistic about playing Wednesday.

“Obviously, the COVID, was only so much you can do there,” Harris said. “You sit out for those games. Then in the Portland game to get to play, where I tweak it a little bit, it’s part of it. But hopefully my body recovers in the right way and I’ll be ready to look past it and go on.

“But it’s not something that I’m worried about. It’s just something that I know has to let time heal it up. We’ll see however long that takes.”

Due to injuries, the Sixers have had 10 different starting lineups. Point guard Tyrese Maxey is the only player to start every game. Maxey and Georges Niang are the only Sixers to play in every game.

Undermanned, the Sixers are 10-8 after defeating the Kings (6-12), losers of eight of their last nine games. They had also been reeling of late.. They lost six of the last seven games and dropped to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings before the victory moved them up to eighth.

Despite that, they’re still only three games out of first place with 64 games remaining.

» READ MORE: Best and worst from Sixers-Kings: Shake Milton’s big fourth-quarter shots, Matisse Thybulle’s defense and more in victory

“I think it’s too early to look at standings,” Harris said. “But everybody wants to do that. You kind of look at the games and see where you could be successful. We let a lot of them slip. But we’ve also been in positions to be victorious in the games.”

Even without four starters, the Sixers were focused on getting a much-needed road victory over the struggling Kings. They also looked at the game as another opportunity to enhance their playing style without Embiid.

“When he does come back, and we get a full healthy team, Danny back, myself back,” Harris said, “we have to be ready to cruise this ship on and really be ready to string together a bunch of wins in a row. That just comes from us being very on point with what we are doing.”