Rivers 'ripped' Sixers' bench at halftime of Game 2, Hill says


There was no way to spin the Sixers’ 32-0 halftime bench points disadvantage Tuesday in a positive way, other than perhaps the notion that things were bound to get better. 

Head coach Doc Rivers was direct with his criticism.

“We challenged them at halftime,” Rivers said Tuesday. “We really did. … We had zero (bench) points at halftime. And we challenged the defense. We said, ‘Guys, if you guys get stops, with the spacing we have, we’ll score. But you can’t play half court all the time, because the other team is scoring.’ I thought our guys did a phenomenal job defensively first, and then we picked the right guys, obviously."

Rivers’ second unit outscored the Hawks’ bench by a 26-17 margin after halftime. The Sixers won Game 2 of their second-round matchup and will have a chance to take a series lead Friday night in Atlanta.

According to George Hill, Rivers wasn’t at all worried about his halftime message being too harsh. 

“Just challenged us,” Hill said following the Sixers’ practice Thursday. “That’s what good coaches do. They come in and sometimes you have to rip the guy’s ass to play well, and I think he ripped all our behinds at half. It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes hearing the truth is what you need. I think sometimes it hurts to hear the truth but you need it, and I think our second unit responded well to that.”

Shake Milton was the 11th Sixer to appear Tuesday and the best of the bench bunch, scoring 14 vital second-half points. He figured high-stakes playing time could be coming his way sooner or later. 


“Shoutout to my guy (Sixers skill development coach) Tyler Lashbrook,” Milton said. “We were in the gym. I wasn’t getting minutes, so we were just putting in extra work. It’s something we always do. We were just working out and then coming back in the gym later, playing 1-on-1. Just keeping yourself in good condition and ready to go.”

Though Rivers did not use any all-bench lineups before garbage time in Game 2, he saw no problem with playing four second-unit players simultaneously. 

He’d frequently leave one starter on the floor with his bench late in the first and early in the second quarter during the regular season, and that pattern hasn’t changed. 

“I don’t think a lot of coaches shorten it unless they have a team that they don’t trust,” Rivers said. “There are coaches who do stay with their deeper rotations. Phoenix, I watched them last night — they went deep and they’ve done it every night, because they have enough guys they feel comfortable playing. 

“I’ve had that before and I’ve also had (eight-player, seven-player) rotations, as well. … We have a lot of guys on this team that can play. We have a plethora of guards who can play. They all can’t play every night, and so what we want do is keep them in rhythm and the push-pull principle, meaning if you play well, you keep playing. If not, there’s a guy pushing you, which will pull you along, as well. I think it’s been good for us.”

Hill personally has no issue with his game-to-game duties being a bit unpredictable. He knows the Sixers look to him for solid, smart play regardless of the circumstances.

Rivers has been prodding Hill to be a less peripheral player, too. Since a 3-for-5 night from three-point range in the Sixers’ Round 1, Game 4 loss to the Wizards, Hill has only attempted six field goals and one three-pointer over 43 minutes. 

“I’ve been that person my whole career,” he said. “Whatever the coach asks me to do, just try to step into that role and do it. Like we talked about, I’ve got to just be more aggressive and less passive. He always says, coming into a new team, you tend to try to feel your way in. He just wants be to be myself, just try to be a little bit more aggressive on both ends of the floor and do what I do best.”