CAMDEN, NJ — The Philadelphia 76ers are preparing to extend their winning streak to six games. Everything starts and ends with Joel Embiid and the contributions from James Harden are also crucial. Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton are all important pieces as well. But the Sixers bench, which got off to a putrid start to the season, is starting to play meaningful roles in wins.
Shake Milton didn’t play much in the first few games of the season and then stepped up into the starting lineup amid injuries. He proved he had to be a part of Doc Rivers’ rotation and had continued to provide some helpful scoring along with Georges Niang off the bench.
On Wednesday morning, during a portion of the Sixers practice where guys typically work on their shooting, Milton, Niang, Matisse Thybulle, Danuel House Jr, Montrezl Harrell, Paul Reed and Furkan Korkmaz ran through an offensive set predicated on movement. Rivers instructed them as they swung the ball around and cut to different spots.
Doc Rivers running through an offensive set with a lineup of Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Danuel House Jr, Georges Niang and Montrezl Harrell.
Paul Reed also getting some work in at the center spot pic.twitter.com/02Ii9kd59P
— Sam DiGiovanni (@BySamDiGiovanni) December 21, 2022
Afterward, Milton explained that they were going through a set and working on finding a good shot after the initial look gets taken away. He explained that the bench comes together because of how often they work together and cheer each other on.
“That’s just guys being in a similar position, knowing what it’s like,” the Sixers guard said of the bench players uplifting one another. “They know what it’s like to be up and down, in and out of the rotation. You see a guy being able to be out on the court and doing well, you’re of course gonna cheer for them. And obviously, we spend a lot of time together so we’re able to see how much work each guy puts in, day in and day out. It’s more of a respect thing than anything.”
Rivers has had to mix up how the Sixers’ bench unit plays due to injuries to various starters over the course of the season. One of the decisions he has made is the stretch of games in which he chooses between using Reed or Harrell as the backup center.
Reed has become a fan favorite because of his energy and charisma but Harrell has gotten more playing time recently. The veteran has played about 46 minutes over the past four games and just 16 in the five prior games. Reed played 53 minutes in those five games and just roughly eight minutes in the Sixers’ last four games.
“His opportunities have been up and down, but Trezz can hoop. He can play basketball,” Milton said when asked about him. “Those are the type of guys you want to play with anyway — guys who know the game, know what to get out of it, know what he’s looking for. And he always brings energy as well, and that’s something the team needs. Any time Trezz has come in, he’s locked in. He’s a different dude on the court. We look forward to it and he always gives us a big boost from his energy.”
Philly’s bench should get even better once Tyrese Maxey returns, moving Melton back to the reserves and giving them a highly talented and well-rounded guard. The tanking Detroit Pistons stand in the way of the Sixers’ sixth consecutive win and with a bench unit clicking like theirs is — plus Embiid, who’s pretty darn good — a victory should be easy to come by.