19 Apr

Sixers wanted ‘easier’ Knicks as backup center Paul Reed tosses first barb of NBA playoffs

The Philadelphia 76ers survived a scare against the Miami Heat in their play-in game Wednesday night, escaping with a 105-104 win, setting up a first-round matchup against the No. 2-seeded New York Knicks. It took overcoming a 14-point deficit and Nicolas Batum catching fire off the bench for 20 points on 6 of 10 from deep for the Sixers to get past Miami. And yet, as close of a call as that win was, Philadelphia is already trash talking ahead of its meeting with the Knicks.

Backup center Paul Reed didn’t shy away when talking about the upcoming matchup with New York, and said that the Sixers wanted to play the Knicks.

“We ain’t ducking no smoke, but yeah, we wanted the Knicks matchup, of course,” Reed said on Run It Back. “That’s the easier team I guess, but you know it’s going to be fun, we match up pretty well. They got a great guard, we got a great guard, we also got Joel, MVP, so like you said earlier, he’s one of the most unstoppable guys in the league right now. They’re gonna have to send triple teams, and he’s gonna get everybody else involved.”

This is both A: confirming that the Sixers are relieved not to have to play the Celtics in the first round and B: that they do not fear the Knicks. Surely, no team in the East would want to play the Celtics in the first round, given how dominant they’ve been all season, and yes, New York is the inferior team when holding them up to Boston. But this feels like one of those situations where you don’t want to poke the bear.

Despite all the injuries the Knicks have had, they managed to finish the season strong, and Jalen Brunson played himself into the fringes of the MVP conversation as well as the All-NBA First Team chatter as well. The Knicks have also had the fifth-best net rating in the league since the All-Star break, so throwing verbal jabs after just beating a Heat team that was playing with a hobbled Jimmy Butler doesn’t seem like a great strategy.

The Knicks may not be the Celtics, but going against them isn’t going to be a walk in the park for Philadelphia. We just saw in that Heat game how unreliable Tobias Harris can be in must-win situations, and Kelly Oubre Jr. wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, finishing the game with 11 points on a poor 3 of 9 from the floor. If it weren’t for Batum coming to life in the second half the Sixers could very well be preparing for another play-in game against the Bulls instead of a postseason series with New York.

This isn’t to say that the Sixers aren’t right in being confident entering this series. As Reed said, Embiid is difficult to gameplan for, and he was on track to win MVP for the second consecutive year had he not gone down with a meniscus injury. Prior to that injury, the Sixers were humming along and looked like the team that could meet the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. But this feels like one of those “be careful what you wished for” situations, and against a Knicks team that has been playing incredibly well as of late, it doesn’t seem wise to give them more motivation before you head into Madison Square Garden to try and beat them.

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