By Jerry Wein
In case you didn’t watch last night’s Sixers win over the Magic because Philly had locked up the top seed in the East, here’s what happened:
The Sixers starters didn’t play, and one rookie staked a flag for meaningful playoff rotation minutes.
Tyrese Maxey had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes, and the Sixers beat the Orlando Magic 128-117.
Joel Embiid (illness), Ben Simmons (back), Tobias Harris (right knee), Seth Curry (right hip) and Danny Green (left hip) were all sidelined.
Maxey went 11 of 19 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, while making all five free throws. Paul Reed added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“They were really excited about playing today,” coach Doc Rivers said of his reserves.
The Sixers finished 49-23 overall and 29-7 at home. They will host a first-round playoff series against the second team to emerge from the league’s new play-in tournament.
“We’re going to work on a lot of stuff that pertains to us,” Rivers said of this week’s practice sessions.
Philly has the top seed for the first time since 2001, when Allen Iverson led the team to the NBA Finals. Those Sixers lost in five games to the Lakers, and the Sixers hadn’t gotten past the East finals in 10 postseason appearances since.
The Sixers will have home-court advantage at least until the NBA Finals. Their first-round opponent could be the Hornets, Pacers, Wizards or Celtics — they went 11-1 against those teams in the regular season.
Maxey showed why the 76ers made him the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft, going 10 of 11 from the field and hitting all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. The speedy point guard out of Kentucky provided a highlight when he flew down the lane for a two-handed dunk with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
“I’m been watching film and finding different ways to get all the way to the rack,” Maxey said. “I’ve put in the work, just working every single day. That creates confidence. My role is to stay ready and do whatever it takes for us to win. To be here and be successful at the highest level of basketball is a great feeling.”