After taking on a tough loss against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday while shorthanded, the Philadelphia 76ers boarded a flight to Milwaukee in the same night so they could face the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
Before the Sixers departed, head coach Doc Rivers was asked whether Ben Simmons would make the trip with the team or not. Since Monday, Simmons has been out with a non-COVID illness. He missed Monday's matchup against the Golden State Warriors and also sat out Wednesday's game against the Suns.
Rivers wasn't sure if Simmons was making the trip at the time. When Thursday night rolled around, it became clear he didn't. During his pregame press conference on Thursday, Rivers didn't hesitate to rule Simmons out for the night. Although he wouldn't reveal whether Simmons traveled with the team or not, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Simmons stayed back.
Without Simmons, the Sixers struggled against a tough Milwaukee Bucks team. From the jump, the 76ers looked defeated as they allowed Milwaukee to outscore them 40-26 in the first quarter. While Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris gave the Sixers a little bit of life in the second half, it was clear Philly was headed towards a loss.
After the game, the 76ers pointed to fatigue and defense being two of the key things factoring into the loss. However, Doc Rivers also noted the absence of Ben Simmons was clear as well.
“There are games where, with certain guys, when they miss, it shows,” Rivers claimed after the game. “This is clearly one of those nights where you can pick the one night you need Ben, and it would always be against Milwaukee because it gives us the same versatility that it gives them.”
Rivers was optimistic Simmons would return in time for Saturday's rematch against the Bucks to increase their odds of climbing out of a mini-slump. Following the loss, he claimed that Simmons' chances of playing would be 50/50 if he had to guess. Unfortunately, the Sixers had Simmons ruled out as early as Friday night.
Saturday will mark the fourth-straight game Simmons will miss this week. So far, the 76ers haven't been able to win without him during this small stretch, and the road doesn't get any easier on Saturday.
Not only are the Sixers looking to face the Bucks without Simmons again, but they could be missing Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz as well. If that's the case, the 76ers could very well be on their way to picking up their fourth-straight loss, ending a tough week on a rather low note.