Paul Reed gets up for a dunk in Sixers' win over Nets

The Sixers (53-28) visited the Brooklyn Nets (45-36) on Sunday. Both teams wanted to finish the regular season on a positive note whilst staying healthy heading into the playoffs. Philadelphia routed Brooklyn behind an 80-point outburst from the bench, 134-105.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Sixers were without the services of all of their regular starters, who were using the final two games on the schedule to recover from various injuries.

De’Anthony Melton has a tight right calf and was unavailable. Georges Niang missed the game with a sore left knee.

Doc Rivers started Shake Milton, Jaden Springer, Danuel House Jr., Jalen McDaniels, and Paul Reed. 

The Nets were without the services of Nic Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris, who rested the final game of the season.

Seth Curry is managing a sore left ankle and was out. Dorian Finney-Smith is managing a right wrist contusion and was unavailable. Cameron Johnson is managing a sore right knee and did not play.

Royce O’Neale is managing a sore left knee and was unavailable. Edmond Sumner missed the game with a right hip contusion.

Ben Simmons has a nerve impingement in his back and is out for the rest of the season.

Jacque Vaughn started Patty Mills, Cam Thomas, Mikal Bridges, Yuta Watanabe, and Day’Ron Sharpe.


These types of games are a bit unusual to cover for reasons beyond the obvious. You’re unsure whether to keep it strictly about the stories of the game or focus on things that are actually meaningful to the team’s playoff chances. We’ll do both here. A little bit of fun, a little bit of business. It starts with Reed, who was pretty clearly the best player on the court when he was out there.

Perhaps the most significant growth point in Reed’s game this season is that offense is slowing down for him. He knows where to be on the court, timing his screens well and understanding whether to open hard and direct to the basket or wide and tease his way to the rim as the ball-handler probes. He also knows where to go when the ball-handler waves him off, making a B-line to the dunker’s spot.

Reed knows to wait patiently and quietly in the dunker, attentive to when the low man lifts to stop the ball and taking two hard steps to the block in anticipation of the dump-off pass coming his way. Even if the pass comes before he steps into the picture and the score isn’t served up on a plate for Reed, that is no longer the problem it once was. Absent multiple ball-handlers he regularly plays with, Reed had no problem catching the ball away from the block, taking a dribble, shielding off interior defenders, and pivoting into scores.

Even when Reed had to catch the ball in space, you could see he had a plan. There weren’t wasted motions or moves that everyone watching knew had no chance of resulting in anything good. Reed simply attacked middle and shielded off defenders with his inside shoulder, getting close enough to the rim on the first or second dribble to use his baby hook or his wingspan to try a crafty layup.

All of those steps forward in Reed’s third NBA season are a product of learning how to gather himself in traffic and get two feet down so that he’s not losing control every time he tries to do anything with the basketball. The first step for him to get on an NBA court consistently was to master the small box of things that the Sixers need out of a backup big man. Once Reed proved he could be trusted to execute those things without trying to do too much, the box expanded. That’s why you’re seeing him do more on offense every time he steps on the court.

Perhaps the culmination of those expansions in skillset was Reed stepping into a triple in the second half of this game and knocking it down confidently. If you get to the arena early enough on game days, you’ll find Reed doing his pregame work with the Sixers’ developmental staff. He likes to finish his workout with catch-and-shoot threes, and he pumps in one after another in the empty gym.

Before he gets to that portion of the workout, Reed works on contact finishing and opening out of multi-layered screening actions. But, I didn’t notice him doing that just a season ago. Baby steps can be more frustrating than grown-adult steps, but young role players have to learn to crawl before they can ball.

If you want a good barometer of how aggressive House Jr. is, he attempted 10 free throws in Friday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks. Infrequently used role players typically don’t get that type of whistle. So, it goes to show that House truly does not care who or what is in his way when he has a chance to get downhill.

I’ve long said he’s one of the two or three best players on the team when it comes to pushing pace in transition. But, this dude is ready to detonate whenever he sees an open lane. Sometimes he’ll get hit with a charging foul. Sometimes, he’ll look foolish as the ball goes flying nowhere close to the basket. But, the prospect of failing on any given possession doesn’t phase him. He’s trying to make a poster or get to the line. We can sit here and list a bunch of players who consistently get to the charity stripe on garbage. But, when House gets to the free throw line, he surely earns it.

The art of offensive rebounding is often taking advantage of ball-watchers. As much vertical pop as McDaniels has, he’s very adept at quietly sliding around ball-watchers when the shot goes up. He took advantage of inexperienced Nets players on Sunday, sneaking in for a pair of easy putbacks as white jerseys watched instead of boxing out.

Nothing more enjoyable about the weirdness of the last day of the regular season than things like Dewayne Dedmon and Montrezl Harrell playing together. They even had some nice two-man chemistry, logging buckets by playing off of each other. Go figure!

Winning this game not only earned the Sixers their best record since 2000-01, when Allen Iverson led them to the Finals, but it also guaranteed Philadelphia homecourt advantage in the 2023 Finals. Of course, the Sixers have to get there first. Winning by 29 points when Thomas poured in 46 for Brooklyn is just silly.

The ‘Likes’ column wouldn’t be complete without a quick mention of Louis King. The young wing scored 20 points in almost 29 minutes of action in his first game as a Sixer. He was extremely confident from beyond the arc, lacing a contested triple on his first shot as a Sixer. King knocked down four of his eight three-point attempts in the game.

No one got injured, so the Sixers will get to the playoffs in relatively full health. Mission accomplished.


Springer only played two minutes in this game, King starting for him in the second half. A team official said that his minutes were being managed after a heavy workload over the last week. That explanation would’ve made sense if they held him out altogether. It also would make more sense if it wasn’t the last game of the regular season. Does that minute management mean he’s going to get a look in the playoffs after seldom seeing the floor in the regular season?

To make it a bit more odd, Rivers said after the game that Springer had been dealing with a turned ankle. He tried to give it a go, but ultimately couldn’t. That makes a bit more sense. So, why not lead with it?

The Sixers finished the season with a record of 54-28, third best in the NBA. They will be the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and host the Nets in the first round. Details about the schedule will be released in the coming days. 


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