The Sixers (50-31) hosted the Detroit Pistons (23-58) on Sunday night. Philadelphia hoped to end its regular season on a 2-game winning streak. Detroit ostensibly hoped to increase its lottery odds with a third consecutive loss. Paul Reed scored 25 points in breakout fashion to power the Sixers to victory, 118-106.
Before we get to what I saw, some context.
The Pistons were without Cade Cunningham, who missed the game with a sore right hip. Marvin Bagley III had a strained left hip and was unavailable.
Cory Joseph missed the game with a strained left Lumbar spine. Jerami Grant was out with a strained left calf.
Hamidou Diallo has an avulsion fracture in a left finger and was unavailable.
Dwane Casey started Killian Hayes, Frank Jackson, Isaiah Livers, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart.
Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, and Saddiq Bey played only the first half for a Detroit team that wanted to protect its lottery odds. Luka Garza, Saben Lee, and Braxton Key started the second half in their places.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid and James Harden, who missed the game with right knee soreness and left hamstring injury recovery, respectively.
Georges Niang missed a second consecutive game due to patella tendinopathy in his left knee.
Paul Millsap was out with a non-COVID illness. Charles Bassey was suffering from right shoulder pain and was unavailable.
Jaden Springer, Myles Powell (Two-Way), and Charlie Brown Jr. (Two-Way) were on G-League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were not available.
Doc Rivers started Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, and DeAndre Jordan.
It was Tyrese Maxey’s show early and often in game 82. Make, miss, or turnover, the Sixers fired the rock up the court to get Detroit to move its defense as quickly as possible. The increased tempo played out to Maxey’s favor, as he forged contact for fouls on multiple drives to the basket in the first few possessions of the game.
As ineffective as Jordan was in his first stint of the game, Paul Reed helped patch up the hole very quickly. His play on the defensive interior not only thwarted Detroit’s own efforts at easy scores, but his activity took possessions away from them. Just by giving maximum effort and recovering from one spot to another, Reed was able to get his hands on the ball to force turnovers and snuff out feeble shots at the rim. On the other end of the floor, Reed pivoted into a crafty up-and-under move for a score and powered through a foul for a finish.
Reed’s tendency to lose control of his body from time to time tends to result in quick foul trouble. And perhaps that will rob him of minutes in the playoffs. But given their resources at the moment, Reed gives them the two things they need off the bench — effort and mobility. Doc Rivers gave his guy a look, but there’s no excuse for Reed not getting the minutes behind Joel Embiid. All you’re looking for is someone who can be a net-zero, at worst, for 5 minutes of each half.
Shake Milton was ultra comfortable getting to his left hand for scores in the first half. He scored 18 before intermission. They weren’t easy shots, either. Milton got his scores by navigating snug pick-and-rolls, pivoting within the post, and leveraging his length at the rim.
For a guy who was touted as a sniper out of college, Milton’s regression from deep is disappointing. All in all, he should be part of your regular rotation in the playoffs. Even if he’s not separating himself on the offensive end, his length on the wings is of value to a team that sorely lacks size and positional versatility.
Tyrese Maxey put forth an absolute clinic on finishing through traffic in the third quarter. Whether it was kissing the ball off the backboard at impossible angles over draped defenders or powering through fouls for the bucket, Maxey dominated the third quarter. As it always is, his best asset in inflicting that damage was just going full-speed at the rim and challenging anyone in his way to stop him. But more exciting for his growth than that were the occasional hesitation move he used to create space off the dribble before turning on the jets to get to the cup.
You never have any idea what you’re about to see when Paul Reed gets the ball. But, you’re going to find yourself shaking your head because it’s either hilariously bad or refreshingly impressive. All throughout the second half, the product trended towards the latter. Reed found his footing as a scorer, intuitively crashing to the rim as soon as his teammates made the first pass towards the basket. Better than that, Reed looked increasingly comfortable pushing the ball in transition. There were a number of possessions in which Reed took the ball full-court for finishes through contact. And speaking of contact, Reed didn’t shy away from the hits at all. He went right at the Pistons on the interior, overpowering them with his physicality for scores.
DeAndre Jordan’s lack of sheer effort in his minutes as a starter were as uninspiring as all of his backup minutes have been in the 16 games he’s played. Isaiah Stewart flushed a pair of threes with Jordan unwilling to grant him respect as a shooter from deep. That wasn’t problematic given that Stewart is hitting less than 30% of his threes this season. The problematic woe was that Jordan did nothing in the way of beating his counterpart to rebounds. Detroit snuck 2 extra possessions past Jordan in his first stint of the game. Philly was outscored by 6 with him on the floor early on. I don’t expect a 33-year-old veteran big man to be perfect. But, you demand better effort from a former All-Defensive First-Teamer.
That effort didn’t get much better in the second half. Jordan elected to pivot from missed box-outs to not getting on the floor for loose balls to prevent Detroit from re-invigorating their possessions. That is sheer will. Jordan’s role with the Sixers may just entail being a great veteran for the young guys. But, he’s not exactly setting a good example by not going for the 50/50 balls and completing other effort-based tasks. So if Jordan’s decision-making, effort, and mobility are bad, what exactly is his value to this team?
The Sixers finish their regular season with a record of 51-31. With the Celtics’ victory over the Grizzlies, the 4-seeded Sixers will host the 5-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. The schedule has yet to be determined.