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With a playoff date with Toronto all but guaranteed, Doc Rivers used Sunday night to get some valuable minutes for his bench players. DeAndre Jordan started and saw the majority of minutes at center in the first half before giving way to Paul Reed.
That’s when the real fun began. Reed, better known as Bball Paul, scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes including a dominant fourth-quarter stretch where he rattled off 10 straight points. It was so impressive that Sixers legend Allen Iverson jumped up out of his courtside seat to cheer him on.
Reed capped the scoring streak by throwing down a two-handed dunk with 2:29 left in the fourth, wildly pointing at Iverson after the flush to let the Hall of Famer know he had arrived.
“Yeah, I pointed at him fo sho,” Reed said. “I had to make sure he knew what time it was.”
Purposely or not, Reed was also letting his team know they could rely on him in the postseason. The Sixers have struggled to find consistency at the backup center spot since trading Andre Drummond. They signed Jordan to be that guy, but the experiment hasn’t been going well. He was -14 versus Detroit on Sunday while Reed was +30. If Doc Rivers decides to give him extra minutes, Bball Paul will be ready.
“I try not to get my hopes up, but hopefully,” Reed said when asked about his role increasing.
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Doc Rivers Not Ready to Demote Jordan
Doc Rivers is sick and tired of hearing about how he should rotate his big men. The Sixers head coach got testy with reporters after Sunday’s game when they asked him if Reed had earned his trust. And possibly a larger role moving forward.
“We’re not going to go on the Paul Reed victory tour,” Rivers said. “We’re trying to win a world championship.”
The implication was that Reed might replace Jordan as the first big man off the bench, although those words were never uttered. Rivers didn’t like the line of questioning and let everyone know.
“Let me clarify this one more time for everyone who struggles with this,” Rivers said. “When there’s a small lineup – I’m going to say it slow so we can all pick it up – we’ll play smaller with Paul. When there’s a big five [on the other team] we’ll play bigger with DJ. Okay? We all have that now.”
That would seem to indicate more minutes for Reed against the Raptors in their first-round playoff series. Toronto likes to run out a “junk lineup” loaded with undersized centers – they start 6-foot-9 Khem Birch at center – and versatile stretch forwards. All of them can shoot and defend the perimeter. The Sixers will study film this week to see how to best match up.
“Too early to talk about it honestly,” Rivers said when asked what the Sixers need to improve. “Offensive rebounding would be the first thing that comes to mind.”
Valuable Minutes for Bench Players vs. Detroit
While Rivers didn’t want to commit to anything after the Sixers’ 118-106 win over Detroit, he was willing to place a tiny amount of importance on his backups playing well. They could be forced into action if a starter gets into early foul trouble, plus there is the vaccination issue with Matisse Thybulle.
“It’s important. That’s huge for us,” Rivers said of his bench guys playing well. “But having said that, I got a feeling Joel [Embiid] will be playing more unless y’all want us to sit him. I don’t get caught up in all that stuff.”
In addition to Reed’s big night, Shake Milton put on a show in the regular-season finale. The backup point guard scored a game-high 30 points in 32 minutes. He went 11-of-18 from the field while dishing out four assists and grabbing four rebounds. Again, valuable minutes for Milton and the third-worst bench unit in the NBA.
“They all played well, they played great,” Rivers said of his bench. “Paul was phenomenal, Shake was phenomenal. It’s funny, Shake just did a lot of stuff, the points were there but he did more than that. And then Paul Reed did a nice job rebounding, running the floor, pushing the ball, made some good passes today, too. So that was good for us. And Tyrese was Tyrese. He probably played more minutes than we had him scheduled for but overall we were happy with everybody.”
That last part had to do with fan favorite Tyrese Maxey. He scored 25 points in only 23 minutes after checking out for good with 2:46 left in the third quarter.