Even in a meaningless game, the Philadelphia 76ers managed to take out some major positives heading into the playoffs.
With the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference wrapped up, head coach Doc Rivers gave the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris a day off for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Orlando Magic.
That meant major minutes for the young Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Paul Reed — all of whom stepped up big-time in the 76ers’ 128-117 victory over Orlando.
“They were so excited today when we told them that the guys were not playing,” Rivers said of his reserve corps. “They were talking about winning the game and they really went out. They played against another team that had a lot of their starters on the floor and won the game. That’s pretty cool for those guys.”
Maxey led the way with 30 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in 35 minutes of action while Joe and Reed added 17 points apiece — proving the reserves were kept sharp despite not getting a ton of minutes during the regular season.
“That’s a testimony to them and to Eric Hughes and the whole group of coaches that wake up every morning, after the games with those guys,” Rivers said. “They have that low-minute scrimmage, even some of the vets get in the game now. When we don’t have enough guys, the coaches play, and it’s a real game, they play hard, and they’ve been doing it every day this year.”
“Every time I play low-minute, we play extremely hard,” Maxey added. “It’s always competitive. Isaiah Joe, Paul Reed, George Hill when he was playing… it’s always competitive every single time. I think it’s really good for our young guys and it just helps us stay prepared.”
That competitiveness was especially evident in Reed’s play, as he added a career-high 12 rebounds with his career-best 17 points.
“I think it helps my development a lot just going out there, going through the different coverages,” Reed said. “I don’t normally play a lot of minutes so I’m not used to going out there and calling out the ices and the veers and stuff like that so going out there and playing, give me the opportunity to fix what I needed to fix and ultimately get better at it.”
The offensive production is all well and good, but for Joe, it’s his defense that is all-important to sustain relentless protection off the bench.
“My defense is all about being in the right place at the right time,” Joe explained. “Just proving to people that I can guard on the ball so just that tenacity. I feel like we have a great defensive team and my job is to come in and not be the weak link and that’s what we do every night.”
It’s an important reminder to Rivers that he has youngsters waiting on the bench to come in and provide invaluable minutes — especially with the intensity and grind of the postseason just around the corner.