Wednesday’s 76ers practice ended almost two hours later than expected. Not because coach Doc Rivers ran his team into the ground, but because of a lengthy film session following Monday’s 123-107 loss at the Toronto Raptors to open preseason play.
“That took up all the time,” Rivers said.
Immediately after Monday’s loss, Rivers expressed displeasure with his team’s 18 turnovers and that the Raptors’ pressure flustered the Sixers’ ballhandlers. Rivers added that poor conditioning could have been partly to blame for the Sixers’ subpar transition defense and struggles to keep the ball in front of them.
Upon further review, Rivers said the Sixers did not play with a high enough intensity level, which he views as slightly different than pure cardio capacity.
“I played for 13 years, I knew how to get through a practice,” Rivers said. “And then I knew how to be intense in a practice to get more out of it.”
Added reserve wing Furkan Korkmaz: “Overall, we were not focused enough as a team … which we shouldn’t have that mentality, because every game is important right now. … [Thursday] I think we’re gonna show a real spirit.”
The Sixers could get their prime firepower back for Thursday’s rematch against the Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center. Rivers said Joel Embiid (rest) and Tobias Harris (knee soreness) practiced Wednesday after missing Monday’s game and that they will “most likely” play Thursday.
Consecutive games against the Raptors to begin the preseason allows the Sixers to apply corrections more directly than during the typical regular-season schedule. Korkmaz and teammate Isaiah Joe compared the scenario to a playoff series, or to the regular-season back-to-back sets against the same opponent implemented by the NBA last season to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe specifically mentioned the way the Raptors had three players “leak out” after securing every rebound, leading to an eye-popping 29 fast-break points.
“That just pushes us to get back even more,” Joe said. “So we really focused on that during practice. They really used their length to their capability.”
Isaiah Joe impressing
When asked who besides new backup center Andre Drummond impressed Rivers during that largely forgettable preseason opener, the coach highlighted Joe. The 2020 second-round draft pick went 4 of 8 from three-point range and 5 of 9 from the field overall against the Raptors, finishing with 18 points, three rebounds and three steals.
It was a nice carryover from a strong performance for Joe at summer league in August, where he scored in bunches and set others up by slashing to the basket before a knee injury cut his time in Las Vegas short. Although his perimeter shooting is effective, due in part to an “I’m gonna do what I do” attitude, Joe said he has worked this summer on increasing his weight to nearly 180 pounds, becoming more consistent in his role and proving he can be a versatile and trustworthy defender.
“That’s one thing I’ve really been taking pride in,” Joe said of his defense. " … I feel like I have a pretty good IQ on the defensive end. I feel like I’m in the right spots most of the time, when it comes down to it. Now, it’s just about being reliable and letting my teammates know that I have their backs.”
After playing in 41 games and shooting 36.8% from beyond the arc as a rookie, Joe said he is “most definitely fighting for minutes” in the Sixers’ backcourt. Rivers added Joe deserves more reps during the preseason.
“We’ve got to get him on the floor more is what I keep telling our coaches,” Rivers said, “because those 10 guys [in the rotation] are playing so much. … I told [Joe], I don’t care what unit you’re on, just keep going back and forth.”
Two-way contract player Riller tears meniscus
Second-year guard Grant Riller sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee during the Sixers’ preseason opener Monday night, according to a team official. He will undergo surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks. He was on crutches during Wednesday’s practice.
Riller recently signed a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he would split time in the G League and with the NBA club. The 2020 second-round draft pick spent last season on a two-way deal with the Charlotte Hornets.
“It’s too bad,” Rivers said. “It’s just part of life and basketball. He’s upbeat about it, but still, he’s a young guy trying to make a team, played well [Monday] and now he’s out. It’s just one of the tough blows you have. But we like him a lot. I’ll tell you that.”
Before starring at the College of Charleston from 2016-20, Riller sustained a serious knee injury that forced him to redshirt his first season.