Game three was a great team win for the Sixers which now takes back home-court advantage and gives the team control of the series. Even with the success, the Sixers suffered a major blow in this matchup as Danny Green left the game in the first quarter with a calf injury. Green was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a calf strain fairly quickly and returned to the bench in a walking boot.
How big of a loss is Danny Green?
There will need to be further testing to determine the full of extent of the injury, but the consensus doesn’t seem to be too promising. While speaking to reporters following the victory, Doc Rivers said, “I’m not ruling Danny out but I’m pretty much ruling him out. I doubt he plays the next game.” At 33-years-old and in his 11th season, it may not be as easy for Green to bounce back as it used to be, and getting him back to full strength as soon as possible is extremely important.
After coming over in a trade this offseason, Danny Green has established himself as an extremely important part of this Sixers team. In the regular season, the Sixers went 27-5 with their regular starting five and outscored opponents by 13.8 points per 100 possessions. Alongside Seth Curry, Green has been the floor-spacing solution to all of the Sixers’ issues, opening up the floor for the Sixers stars and also providing valuable veteran leadership to the youthful squad.
With Green seemingly set on missing time, the Sixers will be forced to make a change in the starting lineup. Here is a look at a few options Doc Rivers could go to and what it would bring to the team:
At the moment it seems like Furkan Korkmaz has the inside track for this spot. The 6’7 wing would be the cleanest fit in the rotation and would not force the Sixers to sacrifice their play style much- if at all. Korkmaz averaged 9.1 points and shot 4.9 three-pointers per game at a 37.5% rate this season. He is one of the team’s best floor-spacers and knocked down three’s at a 40% clip last season.
Doc Rivers subbed Furkan in as the second substitute off the bench in game three, following only Matisse Thybulle. The Turkish sniper made an immediate impact – scoring 11 points in the first quarter and giving the offense the jolt it needed. It is also important to note how impactful he was on the defensive end. Korkmaz did a great job matching up with Kevin Huerter who has been extremely impactful for the Hawks this series. Furk’s length proved to be an asset and Huerter ended with 3 points on 1-6 shooting despite scoring 20 and 15 points in the previous two games.
Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons each spoke extremely highly of Furkan following the game which bodes well for the 23-year-old’s chances. As Simmons put it, “He’s great. He’s a weapon. He’s had a lot of great moments, you know, wearing a Sixers jersey, and I love playing with him.” Korkmaz has never been afraid of the moment and the growth on the defensive side of the ball greatly increases his ability to log minutes and step into a starting role.
If this injury to Danny Green had occurred a few months ago, Shake Milton would have been the obvious answer to who would fill his minutes. Milton has had a rapid rise and then fall from graces and it is no longer clear exactly where he sits in the rotation. Following his game two heroics, Milton seemed to move up the rotation and was given 21 minutes on the court in game three. In this time, Shake tallied 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist. The bench had a much better performance as a whole which allowed less of the scoring burden to fall on the 24-year-old guard, but he did not carry the same pop that was seen in the second game of the series.
If Shake Milton is back to himself he can serve an extremely important role on this team. Putting him in the starting lineup would also provide some extra ball-handling and could potentially help set up more mismatches with Ben Simmons. Just as was clearly seen in the third quarter of game three, there is not a player on the Hawks that matches up well with Simmons defensively. Allowing him to pick his poison in the post could be an added dynamic to the Sixers’ defense and could be something Rivers looks to further explore.
On the negative side of things, Milton does not provide the level of floor-spacing that Green does and shot 35% on 3.2 attempts per game beyond the arc this season. Shake is at his best when creating off the dribble and attacking the basket and forcing him into a role as more of a catch-and-shooter could be a detriment to his game. It is nice to see Shake getting back to performing the way he is capable of, but sliding him into the starting lineup may be too big of a jump after seemingly being out of the rotation just a few games ago.
Throwing Matisse Thybulle into the starting lineup would be a firm commitment on the defensive end. His length and overall ability on the defensive end have proved to be extremely impactful this series and Thybulle has also shown improvement on the offensive side of the ball. While he is not known for his scoring ability, the Washington product is averaging 6.3 points per game on 66.7% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc this series.
If Thybulle plays alongside the starters it would also be a vote of confidence for Ben Simmons’s scoring abilities. This would likely result in Matisse serving as the primary defender for Trae Young and allow Simmons to put more of an effort on the offensive end. If the Hawks continue to double on Embiid there is plenty of space for Ben to operate and even without the double, there is not a clear one-on-one matchup on the Hawks for the 6’10 Sixers’ star. Simmons took over the game in the third quarter of game three scoring 11 points during the period and ending with 18 points on the game. This would be an interesting move on the part of Doc Rivers if he looks to further exploit the matchup that he clearly seen as an advantage for Simmons.
Despite his improvement on offense on the small sample size this series, Thybulle will not demand nearly the defensive respect that Danny Green does. It is likely the Hawks defenders will sag off the 24-year-old wing and force him to beat and it is up to Doc Rivers if he is comfortable enough to roll the dice with this. This also has the potential for some of the spacing issues that occurred last season to begin to show face once again.
There is also a nice spark that comes with Matisse Thybulle coming off the bench. Similar to a relief pitcher who comes in and throws some junk, Thybulle provides a different look on defense and changes things from Trae Young’s perspective. If given more minutes it is worth wondering if some of this “juice” is lost and it is also a valid concern that Thybulle could end up in further foul trouble if he is given more minutes. This was seen is game three as well as Matisse fouled out in just 17 minutes of play in game three.
He may be a different style of player than Danny Green, but George Hill is cut from the same cloth. The veteran leadership he provides is important and Hill has the most playoff experience of any player on the Sixers (outside of Green). This experience is a major reason why the Sixers traded for Hill and he also would provide additional ball-handling on the court.
While he has been spoken of in an extremely high way by Doc Rivers and several other players, it is not necessarily a good thing that Hill’s presence has been more impactful than his play. The 12-year veteran has averaged just 2.3 points, 1 rebound, and 1.3 assist in 14.2 minutes of play in this Hawks series. Hill is a career 38.4% three-point shooter and a proven capable contributor, but this would be a major increase in workload for the veteran at this stage in the season.
Who will replace Danny Green?
Doc Rivers made it clear that the Sixers would continue to adopt the “next-man-up” mentality, but he was unsure who would be picking up Danny Green’s minutes. Surrounding the trio of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris with shooters must remain the priority and Furkan Korkmaz is the best fit in this regard. Korkmaz showed success in the dribble handoff in his extended minutes which can prove to have continued success in creating open looks.
It is worth noting that Tyrese Maxey deserves some consideration but, despite him stepping up to every challenge he has been given so far, this would simply be too much to throw on the rookie’s plate at this point. Danny Green is still set to undergo further testing to find how serious the injury is and set a timeline for how long he will be held out. The three-time champion has proved to be a significant part of the Sixers style of play this season and was expected to play a vital role in this playoff role, so the team will hope to have him back sooner rather than later.
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