76ers

Josh Richardson film review: What Sixers' shifty shooting guard brings to the table

Josh Richardson film review: What Sixers' shifty shooting guard brings to the table

At 6-foot-6, Josh Richardson will be the smallest player in the Sixers’ starting lineup.

Before he begins his first season in Philadelphia, let’s look at what he brings to the table:

Defense: A fluid athlete 

Richardson is excellent at tailing shooters like JJ Redick, moving fluidly and staying attached well on screens and dribble handoffs. 

The 26-year-old made an impressive transition from a quick, controlled close out on the play below to sliding with Redick on his drive to the rim and swatting the veteran’s shot. It’s a nice combination of defensive fundamentals and high-level athleticism. 

Defense is clearly a part of the game Richardson values. You have to love the hustle here to chase down Joel Embiid, gobbling up ground to force the steal.

There are, however, odd occasions when Richardson has lapses in effort or allows himself to fade from the picture. The sequence below was a poor one as the Tennessee product’s careless pass bled into him getting beat back door by Furkan Korkmaz.

Just about every player has moments like this, but the Sixers will hope Richardson is just a touch more consistently engaged and active now that he’s on a contender. 

Offense: A shifty shooter 

Richardson’s instincts for how and when to find space off the ball are strong. He made a savvy shift from slow jog to sharp sprint toward the ball on this play from Feb. 21. 

That shiftiness is one of his standout skills. Tobias Harris and Redick botched the Sixers’ defensive coverage on the play below, but note Richardson’s quick curl around Derrick Jones Jr.’s screen, and his burst to the basket before Redick is ready.  

Richardson could, in some ways, fill Redick’s offensive role as a constant mover and outside shooter. His three-point shooting is not at Redick’s level (35.7 percent from long range on 6.3 attempts per game last year) but, after snaking around screens, he has more options than Redick, who’s not much of a threat to do anything besides shoot from long distance.

If he was in Richardson’s spot, Redick would typically curl up from the baseline and around Kelly Olynyk at the left elbow extended on that play. For all his strengths, Redick is not a player who, like the Sixers’ new shooting guard, can dart into the middle of the paint and hit a fadeaway jumper.

Though capable of beating his man and penetrating, Richardson isn’t great at creating separation against bigger players or making plays through contact. Ben Simmons swallowed him up on this play.

It’s fortunate for Richardson and the Sixers that he’ll be the team’s smallest starter. Surrounded by bigger (and better) players than when he was with the Heat, Richardson should see more favorable matchups as opposing defenses have to dedicate size to his gargantuan teammates. 

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris available vs. Raptors

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris available vs. Raptors

Joel Embiid is available for the Sixers’ game Wednesday night vs. the Raptors after missing Tuesday’s loss to the Suns with a left ankle injury. 

The three-time All-Star sustained the injury in the first quarter of the Sixers' game Sunday against the Trail Blazers. He appeared to grimace after his left foot landed awkwardly on the basket stanchion (see video above). 

Al Horford and Tobias Harris will also return after sitting out Tuesday's game with left knee soreness and right ankle soreness, respectively. Josh Richardson, who rested against Phoenix, is available as well. 

On Tuesday, Brett Brown said the players out vs. the Suns could've played in a postseason game, and the news that they're available for the team's penultimate seeding game clearly indicates that is indeed the case. The Sixers head into their game vs. the Raptors at 43-29, a game behind the No. 5 seed Pacers in the Eastern Conference. They're likely to face the No. 3 seed Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, and a Pacers win vs. the Rockets this afternoon and/or Sixers loss to Toronto would finalize that matchup. 

Alec Burks is out for the game against Toronto with left foot soreness, an injury that The Inquirer's Keith Pompey reports is not a "long-term concern." He's performed well at Disney World, averaging 14.3 points and shooting 57.1 percent over the Sixers' six games, and looks primed to play a key role in the playoffs as the Sixers forge ahead with Ben Simmons sidelined by a left knee injury. Simmons had successful surgery to remove a loose body from his knee on Monday.

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How to watch Sixers vs. Raptors: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

How to watch Sixers vs. Raptors: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

Updated: 2:14 p.m. 

The Sixers on Tuesday lost to the only team without a defeat in the NBA's "bubble," falling to the Suns. Wednesday, they'll play the team with the second-best record at Disney World. The Toronto Raptors are 5-1 in Orlando and 51-19 overall.

Here are the essentials:

When: 6:30 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 6
Where: The Field House at The Wide World of Sports Complex 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Factors behind the rest 

Before the Sixers’ loss Tuesday, Brett Brown was asked about the team not having any of its opening night starting lineup available. Josh Richardson rested, while Tobias Harris (right ankle soreness), Al Horford (left knee soreness) and Joel Embiid (left ankle injury) were listed as out with injuries. We won’t see Ben Simmons for some time after he had surgery on his left knee. 

Initially, Brown didn’t have much to add.

“I’m sure they could play (if it was a playoff game), but it isn’t,” he said.

He then expanded on the thinking behind so many of the team’s top players being out.

“If you went to any coach in the NBA, you’re going to get that,” he said. “What ends up happening, also, is it gets doubled down on with the medical people and it ends up a cumulative decision that’s collaborated on with the players. Living in this world that we’re in down here I don’t think changes — we could be in Philadelphia, I bet we would’ve done the same thing. 

“But I feel like, when you sort of feel the physical side of our team and some of the subtle injuries, the fact that you don’t have the depth that you used to with Ben, all those things added up have influenced this decision.”

For the team’s penultimate seeding game, the Sixers will be near full strength. Simmons remains out, of course, and Alec Burks is sidelined with left foot soreness, but everyone else who missed Tuesday's game is available.

2nd-round preview?

Toronto is locked into the No. 2 seed, while the Sixers are a game behind the No. 5 Pacers. According to Basketball Reference, there’s a 94.8 percent chance the Sixers finish as the No. 6 seed. It’s possible, therefore, that the Sixers could play the Raptors in the second round in consecutive years.

The Raptors were the first team to travel to Florida and have wins there over the Lakers, Heat and Bucks. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are not on the injury report after missing Monday’s win over Milwaukee, while Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion) and OG Anunoby (right knee soreness) are questionable, but Toronto has no reason to push any key players. Pascal Siakam’s 28 minutes were the most of any Raptors starter vs. the Bucks. 

The Sixers can even the regular-season series against Toronto at 2-2 with a win. Notable moments against the Raptors this season include Embiid being held scoreless on Nov. 25 and Matisse Thybulle putting up a career-high 20 points on Dec. 8 in a game the Sixers kept interesting until the end with a flurry of late turnovers. 

More playoff prep for Thybulle 

Time is running out, but Thybulle should have another chance here to fine-tune his defense, which Brown and the Sixers expect to count on, before the postseason.

He was frustrated by fouls Tuesday, picking up a technical and accruing five fouls by early in the third quarter. Brown thought there were lessons to take away for the rookie about how to play in those situations. 

“I think one of the areas that he can learn from the most is how do you play with five fouls,” Brown said. “I thought that he was so trying to do the right thing and trying not to foul out that (Devin) Booker could kind of score easily. And I get why he would think that. But when we go into the next world of the playoffs, when I look at who are my best defensive wings now that you don’t have Ben, Matisse is clearly amongst that. I think Glenn Robinson’s got a shot at being in that group. I know J-Rich is a part of that group. 

“You start playing that game in the event that foul trouble happens, how can you play with foul trouble? Because sometimes you’re just going to have to. And I thought that in general, he was pretty good. I thought that specific thing that I’m talking about, that’s a transferrable lesson, especially as the playoffs become closer.”

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