BOSTON — Danuel House Jr. played a pivotal role in the Philadelphia 76ers’ most important playoff win in decades. True story. In Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, House got his first legitimate playing time in the 2023 NBA Playoffs and made the most of them, helping the Sixers pick up a massive, massive win.
In 15 minutes, House scored 10 points on 5-7 shooting and collected five rebounds. He charged right ahead for transition opportunities, either going himself or running the floor and scoring off of passes from James Harden. The Sixers won 115-103 in a game that was much more lopsided than the score suggests, putting them one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
House said his job was to “bring energy, showcase a little something for the team, guard the yard and make sure I’m executing plays.” Doc Rivers said House was “fantastic” — as was everyone who played — but didn’t set his place in the rotation right away. He was one of several names who the Sixers considered as they looked to expand their rotation back to nine players after going with just eight in Game 4. Going with House, he said, came from a gut feeling.
“We talked about it painstakingly, yesterday and today, between three guys who to play,” Rivers said. “I can tell you House was not the pick. But I just picked him. I thought we needed size and we needed athleticism, and that’s something that he has. I also thought that he’s the guy that has played with James the most. And he knows how to play with James. So, I thought that was important.”
Trade deadline acquisition Jalen McDaniels closed out the regular season and began the playoffs as one of the Sixers’ four key bench guys (along with De’Anthony Melton, Georges Niang and Paul Reed). After McDaniels was bumped from the rotation last game, House was given a chance to play in his spot.
“Just smart,” Harden said when asked why House made sense as a guy to turn to. “His thing is that you don’t have to tell him: he already knows…He’s an all-around player. Defensively, he’s really good. He can make shots, he can finish around the rim. So he just brought that energy for us — something that we needed.”
Naturally, House was physically worn down after playing long stretches of high-intensity basketball for the first time in a while. Rivers gave the Sixers something to laugh about during one sideline interaction with him.
“Danuel House gave me the European signal for substitution, which the whole locker room got a kick out of ’cause I didn’t know what it was. He walked over to me and was doing this,” Rivers said as he crossed his forearms into an X shape. “We have an X play. So I’m thinking X play and he said, ‘No, I can’t breathe.’”
House may not end up playing 15 minutes in a game again this postseason. His next few games could combine for fewer minutes. Even if that does happen, he will have already done his job by stepping up in a crucial Sixers game. And if he is needed again, it can be safely assumed that — just like this time — he’ll be ready.
“I can’t let my brothers down, to the left and right. My name was called, so like I said, I had to step up,” House said. “Guys have been doing a good job of showcasing ‘we season.’ I just wanted to get in there and contribute to the ‘we season’ that we’ve been carrying along this whole season.”