Last night's 113-112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sixers' second consecutive one-point win to kick off this five game road trip, contained two truly shocking developments.
The most shocking was Georges Niang coming up with a game saving block in the final seconds of the game. At just 6'7" in height, with a vertical leap that you might be able to measure with a ruler and a self-appointed nickname of The Minivan, Georges typically comes up with about five to ten blocks per season. The odds of one of them coming up in the final seconds of a one point game is so statistically improbable that I'd walk out of a movie if I saw it on the big screen.
But alas, as incredible as Niang's block was the bigger story to come out of last night's game came about a half an hour before tip-off, when the Sixers announced that De'Anthony Melton would be in the starting lineup in place of Tyrese Maxey, the first time all year the Sixers have deviated from their opening night starting five when they've been free of injury concerns.
"We told our team there's three (starting) lineups that we'll be using from this point on," Rivers told reporters after the game. "Some nights it'll be to match up to them, some nights it'll be to make them match up to us."
In one respect, the move isn't completely stunning, as the defensive concerns over the Harden/Maxey backcourt pairing have been there from the beginning, and the concerns haven't necessarily been quelled by the play so far this season.
However, Maxey, still just 22, is one of the league's rising stars, developing into a dynamic 21 point per game scorer in just his third year in the league. While coming off the bench shouldn't be seen as the demotion that it's often talked about as (Maxey still played 33 minutes last night!) it is something you don't frequently see happen with a core player like Maxey.
How did we get here? What problems are the Sixers looking to solve? And what are the possible solutions?