ATLANTA – Doc Rivers isn't revealing his plan for replacing Danny Green in the Philadelphia 76ers' lineup.
Rivers said Sunday “some of the unintended good consequences of having injuries during the regular season” are having options for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. Green's injury is a big loss for Rivers, but the coach has a deep bench.
Green is expected to miss at least two weeks after straining his right calf early Friday in a 127-111 win over the Hawks. The 76ers took a 2-1 lead in the series, putting Atlanta behind in a series for the first time in this postseason.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan is trying to avoid putting added pressure on his players.
“I think all games are must-wins,” McMillan said Sunday. “If we don’t get tomorrow night we still have another chance in Philly, but you want to take advantage of your home court.”
Matisse Thybulle was Rivers' first choice to replace Green in Friday night's game. Thybulle scored only seven points but he joined Ben Simmons to lead the defensive effort against Hawks point guard Trae Young.
Rivers could try to add offense by inserting Shake Milton or Furkan Korkmaz into the lineup. Korkmaz scored 14 points, including 11 in the opening period, in Game 3. Milton had 14 points off the bench in the 76ers' Game 2 win in Philadelphia.
Another 3-point shooter on the floor could help create room near the basket for center Joel Embiid and others.
“It is a decision we’re going to have to make on what’s more important, the extra defender or the extra floor spacer,” Rivers said, adding Green was “so good, in a lot of cases you got some of both.”
Thybulle said more than one player must fill the leadership void left by Green's injury.
“When you lose a vocal guy, it's not so much for one person to step up but for everyone,” Thybulle said. “I think it’s huge for me and for everyone down the line.”
76ERS AT HAWKS
Game 4, 7:30 p.m., TNT
— NEED TO KNOW: The Hawks must recover from a demoralizing loss which ended their streak of 13 consecutive home wins. Led by Embiid's 27 points, the 76ers outscored the Hawks 34-19 in the third period. Dwight Howard added 12 points in only 13 minutes off the bench, adding to Philadelphia's size advantage.
The Hawks faced double-digit deficits most of the second half. It could be a blow to the confidence of such young players as Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter, who are in their first postseason.
“This team has never experienced this,” McMillan said. “What we have to do is continue to believe.”
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Atlanta's 3-point shooting. Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic combined to make nine 3-pointers and Young scored 35 points in Atlanta's 128-124 Game 1 win. The two combined to make only 3 of 13 3s in Game 2 and 5 of 11 in Game 3.
“I’m never concerned,” Young said after scoring 28 points on Friday night. “This team, we work too hard, guys work too hard to feel down or anything about their shot. I’m not down or worried about guys’ shots. They’re going to fall eventually. I know they will. We’ve got to keep shooting.”
— INJURY WATCH: Green returned to Philadelphia for treatment. Rivers said the plan is to have Green back with the team as soon as possible.
“We’re going to bring him right back,” Rivers said. “We want him around. I’m telling you he’s very important. We’ve got to have him around our guys. That’s very important for our guys.”
Despite losing Green, the top-seeded 76ers are favored over the Hawks, the No. 5 seed, on Monday night by 3 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Hawks forward Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) took shots in Sunday's practice but still has not participated in live five-on-five sessions.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Huerter picked up three early fouls on Friday night and scored only three points in 23 minutes. He was only 1 for 5 on 3s.
“It was definitely a frustrating game personally for myself,” Huerter said. “... I wasn’t able to find a good rhythm. I’ve got to be smarter, got to be a lot smarter with my fouls. I just can’t put myself in that situation.”
JAZZ AT CLIPPERS
Game 4, 10 p.m. EDT, TNT
—NEED TO KNOW: Utah had won six consecutive games before No. 4 seed Los Angeles made a strong answer by beating the Jazz 132-106 on Saturday night. The top-seeded Jazz lead the series 2-1.
The lopsided loss was bad enough for Utah. The sight of Donovan Mitchell limping to the tunnel after tweaking his ankle in the fourth period added more gloom to the defeat.
Mitchell returned to the bench, but not to the game. Despite the early exit, he led Utah with 30 points. It was his fifth consecutive game with 30 or more points.
The Clippers' answer to Mitchell was a double dose of 30-point scorers. Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and Paul George added 31.
—KEEP AN EYE ON: George proved he can be a difference-maker in the series. After being taunted by fans in Utah, George delivered 20 first-half points as the Clippers flourished at home. George made 6 of 10 3s overall and added five assists and a steal.
George shot only 34.3% from the field in the first two games. With the Clippers needing a win to avoid a 3-0 series deficit, he made 12 of 24 shots in a performance which could establish momentum for Game 4.
—INJURY WATCH: Mitchell said after the game he'll be ready for Game 4. He said he could have returned in the fourth quarter on Saturday night if the game had been closer. He had ice on the ankle as he left the bench following the game.
—PRESSURE IS ON: Utah must take better care of the ball to bounce back on Monday night. The Jazz had five players commit two or more turnovers on Saturday night. The team's 13 turnovers led to 24 points for Los Angeles. The turnovers also contributed to the Clippers' 44-32 edge in points in the paint.
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