Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Embiid, VanVleet, Robinson

Sixers coach Doc Rivers disagrees with the perception that his bench needs to score more, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Many league observers believe Philadelphia’s depth could be an Achilles heel, especially after the team gave up Seth Curry and Andre Drummond in last month’s deal for James Harden.

“All year, we were playing with five bench guys. I think that was too many for people,” Rivers explained. “Now, we are playing three bench guys. That’s not enough for people.”

Philadelphia’s bench consists of Shake Milton, Danny Green, Georges Niang and DeAndre Jordan, which likely isn’t better than other Eastern contenders such as Miami or Milwaukee. The team’s starting group certainly makes up for it, however.

“I think the biggest thing everyone is missing is since James has come, we play two starters with the bench,” Rivers continued, alluding to his new substitution pattern. “So when you do that, the bench guys aren’t going to score as much.

“The reason they aren’t going to score as much is because the two starters that are playing with the bench are probably scoring more when they are playing with the bench. So it does change it a little bit for sure.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers superstar Joel Embiid is eager to play in every game before the playoffs, but he understands the importance of being healthy, Pompey writes in a separate article for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid has been playing through a sore back. Philadelphia will need his production in the playoffs, as he’s currently averaging a career-high 30.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (right knee injury management) will miss the team’s game against Philadelphia on Sunday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. VanVleet played nearly 47 minutes against the Lakers in an overtime game on Friday. He leads the team in minutes per game (38.2) and is in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.
  • Mitchell Robinson has provided a boost for the Knicks on the offensive glass, Pette Botte of the New York Post writes. The seven-footer has averaged just over four offensive rebounds per game this season, trailing only Grizzlies center Steven Adams“Huge … those effort plays, they inspire your team,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Our rebounding has been off the charts, that’s a big part of winning. You have to keep improving … keep fighting, scratching. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do right now.”
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