Heading into the last day of the NBA season, the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers were battling it out for playoff positioning. In the end, Boston finished second, Milwaukee third, and Philadelphia fourth. The Celtics and Sixers both won while the Bucks fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Philadelphia and Milwaukee both sat most of their top guys, which meant, for the Sixers, that they were without Joel Embiid and James Harden. With Embiid out, DeAndre Jordan got the start, while third-string big man Paul Reed played over 20 minutes off the bench.
Reed dropped a season-high 25 points in the contest to go along with six rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Meanwhile, Jordan put up eight points and 11 boards as a member of the starting unit. After the game, a reporter asked Doc Rivers if he regretted not playing Reed more throughout the season. The former Celtics head coach did not take kindly to the question, and responded as such:
Let me clarify this one more time for everybody who struggles with this. When there’s a small lineup, and I’m gonna say it slow so we can all pick it up, we’ll play smaller with Paul. When there’s a big five, we play bigger with DJ. Do we all have that now?
Jordan signed with the Sixers on March 3, but throughout his time in Philadelphia, people have been clamoring for Reed to earn more minutes. Evidently, Rivers has gotten sick of being asked the same question over and over again.
Rivers Doubles Down on Rotational Explanation
That being said, Rivers’ initial explanation didn’t satisfy the Philadelphia reporter, who continued on in his quest for an explanation. He pressed Rivers for a different answer, noting the Sixers’ rotation over the past few games. Once again, Rivers responded negatively, giving a similar answer:
Well, up until the last three games look at who we’ve been playing. Just look at it. They’ve had big fives in. Okay, so against big fives, because of fouling, we like DJ. Do you understand that?
In the five games leading up to the “last three games” mentioned by Rivers, the Sixers faced off against the Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, and Milwaukee Bucks. In those games, the centers rolled out by Philadelphia’s opponents were Isaiah Jackson (6’10), Moses Brown (7’2), Mason Plumlee (6’11), Isaiah Stewart (6’8), and Brook Lopez (7’0).
With Reed measuring in at 6’9 and Jordan at 6’11, Rivers isn’t wrong in his statement. Yet plenty of Sixers fans and media members continue to call for more Reed minutes and less for Jordan and Paul Millsap.
Rivers Sounds Off, Challenges Reporter
And at this point in his postgame interview, Rivers was completely tired of the question. When the reporter tried to chime in one final time, Rivers cut him off and finished his rant:
We have a whole coaching staff who, I’m just gonna guess knows a little bit more. And they watch every game. They watch every practice. We believe against big fives, DJ is good for us. We believe against smalls Paul. Could we play Paul with a big five? Yeah, you could. You may get in foul trouble early in a playoff game, which could swing again. I’ve been around a long time. Trust that.
The 76ers are set to match up with the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto has nobody on their roster who is over 6’9, and they primarily run lineups made up of long, lanky wings. It will be interesting to see who Rivers chooses to roll with, as it might lead to more postgame interrogations.