Instant Observations: The Sixers beat the Pistons in Game 82, which was to play against Toronto in the first round

The Sixers rested their stars and still won Game 82, beating the Detroit Pistons 118-106 in the final. With the Celtics beating Memphis in their final game, the Sixers will sit at No. 4 and draw the Toronto Raptors in the opening round of the playoffs.

Here’s what I saw.

The good

• A game like this is a good illustration of how good you actually have to be to cut it like a regular NBA rotation man. Shake Milton has been in and out of the ranks this season, sometimes for health reasons, but also with other guys in front of him on the depth chart at various times of the year. But with a chance to be one of their leaders against a Detroit team with many outfielders on the floor, Milton dominated flat, and easily flew past smaller Pistons guards to score on the edge. He was one class above (and maybe several classes above), most of the guys stuck by guarding him.

It’s been easy to forget Milton this year with Tyrese Maxey showing up and James Harden coming to town, but a guy who can hit an open catch-and-shoot three and offer a little bit of secondary creation will always be valuable coming from the bench. And it was especially valuable in this game, where Philadelphia’s main offensive pillars sat on the sidelines in streetwear. With time and touches to use, Milton did an excellent job, making his first six shots of the game using his own handle to attack the basket.

His off-the-dribble work will not be particularly important to Philadelphia in the coming weeks, a bonus along with the shooting he can provide, with Embiid, Harden and Maxey mainly running the show. But you never know what might happen during a playoff game, whether injury or form will make someone play a bigger role. Even with Maxey stealing some of his minutes last season, an explosion in the second half from Milton helped them steal a win during last year’s run, and he’s capable of occasional warm-ups where defense can not really do much for to prevent him from scoring.

That Milton has found a foothold over the last few weeks is a pretty important development because he looks like one of the few guys coming off the bench who might be able to help them in the playoffs. As the direct sixth man, Milton had some issues during last year’s run, but as perhaps the seventh or eighth most important guy for this year’s team, he may end up having an impact on where the year ends. He is at least in shape at the right time.

• If anyone could breathe life into a pointless game 82 for Philadelphia, then it’s Tyrese Maxey who’s got a lot of fights up this season that we might otherwise have ignored completely. But do not take my word for it, just ask Allen Iverson, who jumped out of his seat at the yard of joy at watching Maxey go to work in the second half of this match.

This performance was about downhill Maxey, where the second-year guard repeatedly came to the line and finished through contact with his jumper MIA most of the night. If this game had any significance, we probably would have gotten to see him run the crunch-time offensive, which would have been pretty fun, but Maxey getting his rightful place next to the other must-protect guys on the bench was a well-deserved reward for his play this season.

• Paul Reed getting chances in the last games of the year may not matter for his playoff chances. Doc Rivers’ general preference is to play veterans, something he shares with most other NBA coaches, and Reed is definitely greener than DeAndre Jordan.

But when Reed can prevent himself from infecting, which is not often, he feels ubiquitous. Team can not keep him away from the basket at both ends of the floor, Reed slips around the body in attack of hard scores and occasional offensive rebounds. With a creative vacuum on Sunday night, Reed even managed to pick up a nice assist in the first half and hit Matisse Thybulle on a cut to two easy. Down the stretch was basically the Bball Paul show for Philadelphia, where Reed drew loud ovations for excellent finishes on the edge, including on some games where he was doomed to fail right up until the moment the shot rolled in.

Reed is an easy guy to get behind because he plays so damn hard, and slowly but surely he is figuring out what he needs to do to be successful at this level.

He feels like a guy who should have gotten a lot more combustion this year, at least once the Sixers made the switch to James Harden, who sent Andre Drummond to Brooklyn. No one has been good enough to even keep the backup center down, and a little more experience could have been enough to push Reed into reliable role-playing territory. I can still play on him in a small playoff role anyway. I should at least not worry that he cares about every possession.

• I do not think a static number should be seen as a sign of a great season in itself, but the Sixers are in a place now where seasons with 50 wins are not that big of a deal. With a full season of 82 games last year, the Sixers easily hit that number, and as it is, they have managed to win 50+ games in three of the last five seasons. It would have seemed unthinkable during The Process’s dog days, and it seemed much more hopeless to many before undergoing the rebuilding the team was stuck in the mud with no hope of fighting.

They may not have a real chance to contend with this year, depending on who you ask. But they are without a doubt a better place now than at any point in their recent franchise history, and that will continue to be true as long as they have a healthy No. 21.

The bad one

• Honestly, the strongest criticism I can come out of this pointless match is that a lot of guys that the Sixers need in the playoffs played too many minutes. I know you only have so many guys on the list, but you could have cleared the bench and played Maxey, Harris, Green and Thybulle pretty much zero minutes in the second half of this match. The Sixers have access to scoreboards just like everyone else, and when they saw the Celtics knock the shit out of Memphis at the break, there was no reason to do anything but put their main rotation players in bubble wrap.

It has to be said though – this was a Tobias Harris stink bomb. With this opponent you would expect someone like Harris to get easy 20 points at least and he made everything in the offense look very difficult as he struggled with the referees over calls he thought he should have gotten.

• DeAndre Jordan, who plays in the playoffs, could cause a full-scale meltdown on social media and for that matter across the city of Philadelphia. I’m not exactly inclined to disagree with someone who feels in a certain way watching him roll over to the goal scorer’s table. For a guy who has been in the league as long as he has, Jordan has far too many moments where he ends up in a place without a plan or a clue, which ultimately allows his husband to get an open look . The looks are not always in the same places either. Jordan manages to lodge wide threes while also struggling to win matches at the bar.

The thing is, even a diminished Jordan has shown some usefulness of offense. He has mated nicely with Tobias Harris, who has managed to find him for what feels like a light lob attempt per. match. He understands his role and what he is good at, which is not always the case for veterinarians who have slowed down, and he does not go outside the script too often. If he was halfway decent at the defensive end at all, I doubt anyone would care so much about Jordan.

However, I do not think he will suddenly find the defensive gear in the playoffs. Maybe you’re more optimistic than I am. Not sure how you could be if you’ve seen him play regular minutes recently.

• For the love of God, Bball Paul, stop polluting.

The ugly

• Too many errors were called in this game. I do not care if they were correct or not, there is no reason why this game should have taken as long as it did. Match 82, neither team is so interested in the result, important players are missing for both teams, you could have had a running watch and no one would have cared.

On that note – Philadelphia fans give officials a long-running, “Ref, you suck!” chant in the third quarter of an effective pointless game 82 are simply incredible things. I’d rather cover sports here where people always worry, than pretty much anywhere else. You’re my type of maniac.

• Sixers vs. Raptors become a bloodbath.


Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Leave a Comment