Curry tests positive for virus, Sixers suit up with only 7 players, and Maxey shines

Sixers guard Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 on January 7th, which sent the whole team into safety protocol mode. Now, the Sixers are forced to battle shorthanded for the next 1-2 weeks while Curry recovers before returning to play.

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Jonah Gutterman/ Made with PicStitch

Curry tests positive, and Tyrese Maxey (bottom corner) has a career-best game against the Denver Nuggets.

The ever-so prevalent and infamous coronavirus has made its way into the National Basketball Association. The virus is now affecting several different teams across the league, and the Philadelphia 76ers happen to be one of those teams.

 

On the evening of Thursday, January 7th, an unfortunate piece of news came out that 76ers’ shooting guard Seth Curry had just tested positive for the coronavirus. To start this season through the opening two weeks of action, Curry, a first-year Sixer player, has been an incredible asset and important contributor to Philadelphia’s great early-season success.

 

Below is a recap of exactly what happened between January 7 and January 9, 2021:

 

On the morning of Thursday January 7, following the previous night’s 141-136 victory over the Washington Wizards, the 76ers sat atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-1, the No. 1 seed so far. Thursday evening, the Sixers had their next game, the second night of a back-to-back. 

In the afternoon, still several hours before tip-off, Seth Curry was ruled out of that night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets with a minor ankle injury. Of course, this was not considered to be any serious issue for just the one game, so Shake Milton would get the start to fill in for Curry at shooting guard.

 

The Sixers ended up losing the game in Brooklyn after an extremely subpar performance from essentially the entire team, falling to the Nets 122-109. 

 

About an hour after the ballgame’s conclusion, the news was reported that Seth Curry had registered a positive COVID-19 test, as the result from the test earlier that day had come back while in the locker room inside the Nets’ arena. Curry was immediately rushed out of the facility and completely out of the arena to head into isolation, away from all other players, coaches, and team members. 

 

When the coach and the rest of the 76ers learned of Curry’s positive test result, the entire team was forced to quarantine in Brooklyn that night and begin the ‘contact tracing’ process. This procedure was in accordance with the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols related to COVID-19 cases and exposure in order to keep the players and personnel as safe as possible.

 

After quarantining and staying the night over in Brooklyn, the 76ers were cleared to head home back to Philadelphia on Friday, Jan. 8th. 

No additional players tested positive for the virus after being tested while still in New York. 

 

Once the team had returned to Philly, however, it was reported Friday evening that there were at least seven players listed as “questionable” status for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Denver Nuggets. Included on this list of the seven questionable players were starters Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Danny Green. 

The players were not given the questionable statuses due to testing positive for the coronavirus, but instead due to potential exposure they may have had with their COVID-positive teammate Seth Curry. The questionable status given to nearly half of the team’s active roster consequently put the status of Saturday’s game as questionable to even be played. 

 

For the remainder of Friday night into Saturday morning, the Sixers organization stayed in contact closely with league officials and observed the health protocols to determine whether or not Saturday’s 3:00PM game would be played. Around noon, just a few hours before tip-off, it was reported that despite the hectic circumstances the game would go forward and be played in Philadelphia. It was originally announced that the 76ers would have 9 players available to play in this game- or so they hoped that was the case.

 

Just minutes following that announcement, both superstars- Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons- were suddenly ruled as ‘Out’ for the game due to minor injuries. Thus, the Sixers were now down to ONLY SEVEN players active for the game, and just one of their usual five starters (Danny Green being the only starter active who was cleared to play.)

 

This was a tough blow for the team to face and an almost unheard of scenario to be in. It was unprecedented to say the least. 

 

Of the 17 players on Philadelphia’s roster, and only 7 being available to play in this game, it meant the Sixers would have only 2 bench players to substitute in for the starters. That, of course, meant that all the active players would have to log a very large number of minutes. When a team has such a small limited number of players available to play, with such few substitutes to come off the bench, it means the players are going to get fatigued very frequently. 

 

Players getting into foul trouble can also be a significant issue when there are not enough bench reserves to sub in. And, of course, just the simple fact that the 76ers were missing almost all of their usual rotational players put them at a massively unfair disadvantage for the game. As extremely short-handed and severely under-manned as Philadelphia was, the game would apparently still go on. With all of the odds so obviously stacked against them, Coach Doc Rivers and his team’s 7 available players headed out onto the court at Wells Fargo Center to take on the Denver Nuggets. 

 

With no Joel Embiid, no Ben Simmons, no Tobias Harris, no Seth Curry, no Matisse Thybulle, no Furkan Korkmaz, and no Shake Milton, the 76ers gave three of their four rookies a start in this game. The only good part about this Saturday afternoon ballgame was that this was a great opportunity for the young players to get some minutes with the team being so ridiculously short handed.

 

There were a few very important headlines for the under-manned Sixers in this game against the Nuggets. The first thing that must be noted is the fact that the seven players suited up for Philly in this game truly played their hearts out and played with admirable effort and energy. The only players with any kind of solidified NBA experience playing for the Sixers were the two veterans of the team, Danny Green and Dwight Howard. 

Four of the other five players available were rookies- Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, Paul Reed, and Dakota Mathias. And lastly, the seventh player available was young backup big-man Tony Bradley to play some relief minutes for Dwight Howard at center.

 

The Sixers played a pretty exceptional 1st quarter of the game, with lots of energy and great pace, and only trailed by a deuce at the conclusion of the first 12 minutes of play. Rookie Isaiah Joe nailed 3 three-pointers in the quarter and Tyrese Maxey got off to a hot start as well. This was against a solid Denver defense, anchored by superstar Nikola Jokić, who has been playing on another level so far this season for the Nuggets.

 

The 2nd quarter was not terrible either for the Sixers, but their defense had a tough time containing the Denver shooters, and gave up several jump shots in the frame. At the half, the Sixers (playing with mostly rookies) trailed by only 7 points to a fully-healthy Nuggets team led by two superstar-caliber players. 

The fact that this was the case, being down only a few baskets, was actually quite impressive to most fans, analysts, and probably even Coach Doc Rivers. Many people thought coming into the game that without Embiid, Simmons or Tobias Harris, the Sixers would be blown right out of the gym and down by 20. But that was not the case at all.

 

The energetic and exciting rookie point guard Tyrese Maxey, #21 overall pick in last year’s draft, was having an incredible showing. Maxey had 22 points at halftime, already surpassing his previous rookie career high, and accounted for 43.1% of the Sixers’ total first half points. Though he had already surpassed his career-high of points in a game, the rookie was far from finished getting buckets in this one. That was just the first half.

 

Unfortunately, it was in the 3rd quarter where things began to go downhill for the Sixers. The 76er defense could not contain Gary Harris and other Nuggets shooters, Jokić dished one assist after another, and suddenly a few minutes later Denver’s relatively small lead ballooned to twenty-one points. At the end of the 3rd, the Sixers trailed 93-72. It was clear the game was already far out of reach for the Sixers to make a comeback.

 

However, despite that being the case, the Sixers continued to play hard and fight till the end the best they could. Tyrese Maxey continued to be the star of the show for the Sixers, as he had scored nine more points in the 3rd quarter to up his total to 31 PTS headed into the final 12 minutes of play. 

In the final quarter, the Sixers battled back a bit and made the game a little closer, outplaying Denver’s bench players with Jokic, Murray, and the other Denver starters all off the court. It was obvious there was no chance for a Sixers comeback that late into the game still trailing by a notable margin, but Maxey continued to build on his career-best performance.

 

Maxey, Danny Green, and other Sixers made some shots to tighten up the score slightly, and the Sixers ended up losing the game by only 12 points. 

 

Logging a tremendous 44 minutes on the court, Tyrese Maxey finished the game with 39 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and made 18 of his 33 shots. 

Maxey became the first 76ers rookie to score 30-plus points in a game since All-Star Ben Simmons did so three years ago during his rookie season. 

 

Maxey’s 39 points were also the most scored in a game by a Sixers rookie since the Philadelphia basketball legend himself, Allen Iverson, scored 37 back in 1996. It was an incredible performance for the 20-year-old rookie that he most certainly will never forget, not to mention in his first career NBA start.

 

As bruised, broken, and unavailable as Saturday’s 76ers team was, it will not be the loss that is remembered from this unprecedented game, but the awesome willpower, grit, and effort the team showed in a very difficult situation.