If you had told me back in December that Paul Reed would be playing 37 minutes in Game 1 of a playoff series against Boston, I would have expected it was because either Doc Rivers had been replaced as head coach or a nasty case of gastroenteritis had run rampant through the roster.
We’ve come a long way in the last few months, though, and we’ve seen during the second half of the regular season and these playoffs that when Joel Embiid is unable to go, the team and its head coach have confidence in Philadelphia’s No. 1 apparel spokesman, BBall Paul.
On Monday night, Reed had his second straight double-double starting in place of Embiid, tallying 10 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, one block, one steal, and no turnovers in Philadelphia’s 119-115 road win. In the final four minutes of crunch time, Paul came down with two crucial defensive rebounds, swished four pivotal free throws, and made an outstanding defensive play with the game on the line in the closing seconds.
Really awesome defensive play from Paul Reed before knocking down a pair of game-sealing free throws pic.twitter.com/Ta8bffhiLj— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) May 2, 2023
Speaking to reporters in Boston after the game, here was Reed’s recounting of that defensive stop:
“And that last play, I feel like they didn’t want me to know what was going on. The last second, I was able to come over and help as he was driving, and I don’t think they expected that.”
Reed was also his typical confident self in reference to his stepping up and knocking down those shots at the free throw line:
“That’s what I practice. Pretend I’m at the free-throw line, working on my free throws. I was just like, ‘All right, I work on these every day.’ Let me just do what I always do. Same little routine, and I knocked them down. That’s what I did.”
Asked what James Harden said to him before he attempted those free throws, Paul showed failure wasn’t even on his mind:
“I think he said, if I miss one, then we’re fouling. But in my mind, I was like, ‘What? I’m not missing.’ So that’s what I was thinking.”
As it sometimes is with Reed, however, there were a few bumps along the way. The playoffs can be a hostile environment, with fans letting you have it and even your own teammates seeking more from you in a demanding fashion. Doc Rivers discussed with reporters Reed stepping up in those moments:
“Well, you’re not going to play in an environment — other than when you’re at home with our guys … but this environment is different. It’s an amazing environment. I was really happy for Paul. I’m sure they showed it on TV, but a couple of guys really got into him. It was close to excessive. And I kept him in. I said, ‘Hey, go in the game and go do something for us.’ But it was pretty harsh. We’ve got to get better at that, probably, with him. I was out with the coaches and when I turned around, the four or five rebounds … our guys lost their minds. I kept saying, ‘Guys, it’s a three-point game. Can we just relax?’ I bet we said that 50 times today. But last year, for anybody in general — a young guy like Paul — that could’ve gone the other way with him. And he just hung in there and made plays for us — and made free throws. Just really proud of him.”
Teammate Tyrese Maxey got a little more specific about what went down amongst the team in the bench area:
“It’s so funny, because there was a play in the fourth where they got a barrage of rebounds — like three or four of them — and Horford ended up laying it up. And Doc called timeout and we came to the bench. And I literally thought Tuck was going to grab P-Reed out of his jersey. He said, ‘If you don’t get the next two rebounds, then we’re going to have a conversation.’ P-Reed got the next two rebounds. It was the like the big brother, little brother thing.”
Here’s a snapshot of that conversation between Tucker and Reed from Monday night:
In his postgame press conference, Reed was asked what Tucker said to him:
“I was trying to get him to get out so I could be the low man. You know what the low man is? So I was trying to be the low man because I’m 6-9, 6-10. He’s 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 on a good day. So I was like, ‘All right, let me be the low man and contest the shot, because I know Tatum’s coming downhill.’ But I saw him kind of late, so he was snapping at me.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst then noted that Reed grabbed the next few rebounds.
“I did. He was on me, and it’s just about taking criticism and being able to stay focused, for real. You know how it is in professional sports. Everybody wants to win and tensions can get high. But to remain cool, calm and collected when the tensions get high is the key, and we have to stay together in moments like that. I was just glad we were able to stay together and not, like, freak out.”
The team certainly did stay together, even after falling behind by as many as 12 points in the first half with Boston hitting every shot imaginable. While James Harden’s 45 points were the headliner, it took contributions from everyone up and down the roster for the Sixers to fight their way to a four-point win on the road without Embiid. Reed was a huge part of the effort, as the team has grown to trust him more and more, something Paul mentioned when asked about Harden finding him on the roll out of a double team late in the game:
“For sure. I wasn’t expecting him to pass the ball to me in that situation, no cap. But I was ready. I was wide open and I was going to dunk the ball. They fouled me and I knocked down two free throws. I’m glad I was able to do that. I feel like now he’s like, ‘All right, he’s at least going to knock the free throws down if he gets fouled.’ … So I feel in a game like tonight, I was able to build a lot of trust from my coaches and from my teammates for sure.”
While it may take the occasional P.J. Tucker jersey grab, these Sixers do have confidence in Reed to get the job done. Whether or not Embiid is able to return to the court for Game 2, Philadelphia will still need plenty of further contributions from BBall Paul throughout the rest of this series. We’re a mere 11 wins away from the Paul Reed Victory Tour coinciding with a different sort of parade.