The Sixers were playing an exceptionally frustrating game through much of the night, trailing the woeful Orlando Magic (7-32) by a score of 81-74 with a little over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Then head coach Doc Rivers, fresh out of clearing the NBA's health and safety protocols, did something he hadn't* done all year: called for Andre Drummond to check into the game and join Joel Embiid for a two-center lineup.
*Embiid and Drummond did, technically, appear once before: one possession when they needed last second a tip-in off an intentionally missed free-throw against the Wolves to send the game to double OT earlier this year.
The lineup, objectively, worked, as the Embiid/Drummond led Sixers outscored the Magic 11-6 in the four minutes that the two centers shared the court, with a pair of Furkan Korkmaz contested 3s and five makes at the free-throw line accounting for all the Sixers' scoring. Perhaps most telling is that the Magic, who finished the night with 14 offensive rebounds on 50 missed shots, collected just one offensive board during these four minutes of play.
The lineup combination did, admittedly, seem to re-energize the Sixers, and led to a dominant fourth quarter stretch to take control of a game that was downright frustrating up to that point. And if there were ever an opponent, and a game, to break that unorthodox pairing out in, it was probably Wednesday night against the Magic.
Following Isaiah Joe's right leg injury in the second quarter, Rivers realistically only had eight players he wanted to use in the second half, and had limited methods at his disposal to stop the dribble penetration and offensive rebounding by the Magic that were destroying the Sixers for most of the night up to that point.
With all that being said, that's not a pairing I want to see much of in the future, or even really at all going forward. It worked out of desperation when the Sixers were short-handed, but I don't think it's a viable solution to the Sixers' (very real) perimeter defensive and rebounding woes.
Credit, also, to Seth Curry, not only for his scoring (20 points on 8-13 shooting), but also for his playmaking. Down Ben Simmons (obviously), Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols) and Shake Milton (back contusion), the Sixers were very low on ball handlers, and needed a big game from Curry. When they needed Curry to keep his head up and be a playmaker out of pick-and-roll sets, he looked comfortable doing so. When he had a kick-ahead pass available to him in transition, he found the shooter. Nobody is going to confuse him for Chris Paul out here, but he ran the Sixers' offense ably in a pinch.
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