Joel Embiid missing a much-anticipated matchup with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets dominated newsstands, but the undermanned Philadelphia 76ers actually took the defending champions right to the gut, forcing them to play their hand all the way to the finish line as they fell just short of a what could have been a mind-boggling upset.
Also missing their second and third leading scorers in Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, as well as fellow starter De’Anthony Melton, Nick Nurse went to largely ragtag lineups to make do with their remaining deck. Alas, their suprisingly good performance showed exactly their most underused weapon this season.
Narrow loss vs Nuggets shows the 76ers have heavily underused their bench this season
The 76ers missed Embiid, the NBA’s leading scorer, but backup big Paul Reed did a masterful job recreating some of his teammate’s magic, turning in a career night with a game-high 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead the team in a losing effort.
Not to be outdone, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 25 markers of his own, while usual backups Marcus Morris Sr. and Patrick Beverley registered 17 each, the latter adding 11 assists, which led both teams.
Philadelphia’s bench has been a weakness for them this season, averaging the fewest points in the league. However, last night’s matinee in Denver gave the coaching staff a glimpse of what their second-unit staples can do when given ample opportunity to produce.
The 76ers aren’t led by the sturdiest of stars, hence making it a necessity to generate as much depth as possible in most positions. The team has one of the deeper ensembles in the NBA, but Nurse has rarely gone deep in his bench when the team has been fully healthy.
Having well-defined rotations is more ideal to optimize chemistry, but even with a full deck, it shouldn’t hurt to give other role players some burn. The starters have played a ton of minutes individually and as a unit, which has played into the bench being utilized less than most.
I’m no coach, but depth is something the coaching staff should leverage more no matter the circumstance, not only when they are forced to do so due to injury. After all, the postseason brings out the smallest of edges, and having a well-rounded roster with players used to playing meaningful minutes goes a long way in, say, a grueling seven-game series.
Hopefully, even when Embiid and co. become fully healthy, the Philadelphia 76ers make it a point to go to their bench more. After all, their depth is not just for show, as their typical second-unit mainstays exhibited in their valiant stand against the defending champs.