Philadelphia 76ers guard De’Anthony Melton started to see an uptick in minutes when James Harden hit the injured list. He assumed a starting job in the backcourt alongside Tyrese Maxey. Now Maxey and Harden are both out, leaving Melton and Shake Milton to play 38 minutes per night. The next-man-up mentality that head coach Doc Rivers always preaches is being tested in real-time.
Melton has poured in 42 points over his last two contests, plus hustling on the other end with his trademark lock-down defense. It’s nothing new for Melton who was counted on for tough fill-in minutes last year for the Memphis Grizzlies when Ja Morant went down. Certain players just naturally embrace that mindset.
“I’ve been in that position before where I’m getting 2 minutes [per game] and then the next thing you know, I gotta go out there and play 20, 25 [minutes],” Melton said after beating Brooklyn 115-106. “Understanding that you gotta stay ready so you never gotta get ready. We’re all pros out here and we all made it here. So just do what you’ve done to make it here.”
Paul Reed is another guy stepping into a bigger role with Joel Embiid out. He exploded for 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in an eye-opening performance against Brooklyn. The game has slowed down a lot for Reed who is at his absolute best when he’s setting screens and rolling, something he has been working extra hard to perfect.
“It’s slowing down, just recognizing that I don’t have to do as much,” Reed said. “It’s really just setting more screens and rolling. That’s where my opportunities are going to come from, just understanding the game, that comes with a little more reps.”
Melton added: “I think every time we step on the court we can get better. So I think that’s the most important thing. Win, lose, or draw, no matter what — on to the next one and keep getting better as a team, as a unit, and individually.”
Tyrese Maxey Coaching Guys Up From Bench
Tyrese Maxey might be nursing a bone fracture in his left foot, but that hasn’t stopped him from being around his teammates. The third-year guard has been spreading his contagious energy from the bench. (And handing out Thanksgiving turkeys to those in need).
And he’s the first guy to jump up and cheer, coaching up his guys and sharing any insider information he has on opponents. Maxey had never missed any games due to injury before this one.
“He was just talking about how boring it is to watch the game sometimes, like you said, he’s never sat out,” Melton said. “Just talking with him, and understanding what the defense is doing, just trying to figure out what they got going on. I think we’re doing a great job of just communicating with guys down. All the guys hurt are definitely doing that for us.”
Reed, a draft classmate of Maxey in 2020, agreed with Melton’s assessment.
“It’s amazing, man,” Reed said. “He’s just always so happy, got so much energy. It’s like he always keeps the same energy, it’s contagious, it’s good.”
Tobias Harris Credits Paul Reed, Georges Niang
The Sixers are navigating the injury storm as best they can. They have won three of their last five games following Wednesday night’s 107-101 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Learning how to play cohseively as an undersmanned squad in November could help them immensely come playoff time. Their bench players are getting valuable minutes right now.
“Paul Reed, his energy on the floor, he’s so young and he just goes out and plays with a ton of heart,” Harris said after the Nets game. “He finished the game with 19 [points] and 10 [rebounds] and his presence out there on the defensive end and being able to really see the openings in their defense and their pick and roll was huge for us. He rolled so many times for us and got easy layups. Georges in 17 minutes gave us a huge push for us especially in the first half, just coming in and being aggressive.”