The Philadelphia 76ers’ bench continues to dissipate, but the victories keep piling up.
The Sixers will look for a sixth consecutive win they travel to face the host Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Philadelphia went on the road and dispatched the Detroit Pistons 109-98 on Thursday in the second leg of a back-to-back with a depleted roster.
The Sixers were missing Ben Simmons (personal reasons), Furkan Korkmaz (wrist), Danny Green (hamstring) and Tobias Harris and Isaiah Joe for health and safety protocols.
Head coach Doc Rivers used only eight players as Seth Curry scored 23 points and Tyrese Maxey added 20. Joel Embiid contributed 19, Shake Milton had 16 and Georges Niang 14.
“We have gritty guys who are just here to win basketball games,” Niang said. “We came in here on the second half of a back-to-back after a tough win against Chicago plus everything this morning and got a win. This is a big team effort.”
Maxey was especially efficient as he played arguably his best game in just his second season. On Maxey’s 21st birthday, he gutted through 44 minutes with such a thin bench.
“It’s a grind,” Maxey said. “It’s a process, too, day by day, trying to get better and better. I’m trying to do better. (Rivers) wants me to be more demanding. He feels like I defer too much. So it gets tough, but my teammates are trusting me more and more every single game. As long as I have their trust and they have my back, then it’s going to be all good.”
The Bulls will look for their seventh win in nine games when they attempt to avenge a 103-98 loss to the Sixers last Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Despite that setback, this new-look Chicago team appears to be much improved with the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic leading the way.
The Bulls fell behind by double figures in their last two games. They managed to erase a 19-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics, but they weren’t able to overcome the Sixers.
“We are going to fight to the end,” said DeRozan, who had 37 points and 10 rebounds against the Sixers. “Now it’s about channeling that energy from the start of the game and understanding we have to play as close to a 48-minute game as possible. We can’t have so many lapses.”
The difference with this version of the Bulls is their 6-2 record as they work on their weaknesses. It’s the opposite of some Chicago teams in the past five years.
“Believe me, I’d rather have a team that has that (comeback) characteristic than not,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said. “Every game is not going to be smooth sailing. You are going to have to weather and battle adversity. I give our guys a lot of credit in that category.
“They’ve done it quite a bit this year,” Donovan added. “I do feel very good about the guys’ ability to fight back. It’s a great characteristic to have. It’s just who those guys are, competitive and they fight.”