The Philadelphia 76ers have been in a tough spot since last Thursday. After losing Seth Curry to a sore ankle, it seemed the team would be nearly fully healthy again by Saturday when the Sixers take on the Denver Nuggets.
But COVID-19 had other plans for them. Curry ended up testing positive for COVID during his stay in Brooklyn, which forced the entire team into quarantine for the next 24-plus hours. After the Sixers underwent further testing, they found out that no other player is positive.
As we know, though, the NBA won't clear players the moment they register a negative test. Therefore, four 76ers have been quarantined and ruled out for some time as they stay isolated to avoid further complications.
Due to the recent issues, the Sixers played with just seven guys on Saturday against the Nuggets. And on Monday, as they faced the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers had nine players available. As expected, the shorthanded Sixers lost both of their matchups as a good chunk of their key players are missing -- and they lack depth.
The Sixers have a legitimate excuse to use for their struggles, but Sixers rookie Tyrese Maxey made it clear on Monday night that Doc Rivers won't instill that thought process in his players' heads. “We can’t make excuses,” the rookie said following the team's third-straight loss against the Hawks.
“It’s the NBA; stuff happens," he continued. "I talked about it last game, you have to go through adversity, and Coach Doc said something that’s gonna stick with us. No one feels sorry for us. You think the Hawks or the Nuggets feel bad? No one feels sorry. We’ve got to figure out a way to try to win some of these games while we’re down.”
Over the last two games, the Sixers have gotten off to inspiring starts as they were able to keep up with their opponents in the first quarter and some change. Once teams began to push the pace and use bench depth to their advantage, they tired the Sixers out quickly and find a way to gain a notable lead, which Philly failed to bounce back from.
“Denver didn’t sit anybody the other night, and Atlanta, other than they have a couple of injuries as well, but they’re playing their starters for the most part,” said Doc Rivers. “All of our starters are out, and no one’s gonna feel sorry for us. We got to try to win these games.”
On Tuesday night, the Sixers are set to face another depleted team in the Miami Heat. Just the other night, the NBA postponed a matchup between the Heat and the Boston Celtics as the Heat didn't have eight players available to allow the matchup to go on. The situation is unfortunate for any team to deal with, but at least the Sixers have a much better shot at snagging an unlikely victory on Tuesday while a good portion of their team is out.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_