2 players exceeding expectations, 2 players struggling for 76ers vs. Nets

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets, NBA Playoffs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets, NBA Playoffs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. With two double-digit victories under their belt, it’s starting to feel as though the Sixers will — or at the very least, should — cruise to victory.

That said, nothing is ever certain. Especially with this team. The Sixers have a unique talent for playing down to their competition and the two victories, while impressive, have not featured unblemished performances from the team. There’s plenty to nitpick, or even outright criticize about Philadelphia’s play up to this point.

Brooklyn held a double-digit in the first half of game two, and even game one featured some impressive defensive execution from the No. 6 seed. The Nets may lack the offensive firepower to combat Philly’s stars, but the Sixers have been far from perfect.

We will, however, start with a positive note.

2 players exceeding expectations for Philadelphia 76ers vs. Nets

— Paul Reed

The “BBall Paul” experience reached its apex in game one. In 13 minutes of action, Paul Reed posted 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He also chipped in four rebounds and two steals. The highlight, however, was his glorious between-the-legs, behind-the-back dribble into a layup off the offensive rebound — perhaps the most Paul Reed play of all time.

Reed’s defensive intensity has been a staple of the second unit pretty much since the All-Star break. He spent the majority of the season, however, tethered to the bench behind Montrezl Harrell. And even when Reed did get the nod at backup center, there was plenty of speculation that he would lose that spot to P.J. Tucker and the small-ball brigade once the playoffs started.

It would appear not. Reed’s stat line wasn’t as impressive in game two, but he still brought his trademark grit and determination to the floor. Plus, we’re seeing more and more success from Reed on the offensive end. He still does too much sometimes, but as evidenced by the clip above, sometimes it works. He’s light on his feet and there’s genuine skill to work with. He should continue to carry the non-Embiid minutes at center, in the Brooklyn series and potentially beyond.