It’s playoff time, 76ers fans.

The Sixers will have several days of practice before beginning their first-round playoff series this weekend. Seeded No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers won’t know their opponent until Thursday, when the No. 8 seed will be decided in a play-in game.

The week of practice should be good for the team, and it will give even the deep reserves a chance to push the starters. And nobody will bring more energy than rookie Paul Reed.

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— Marc Narducci (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

‘B-Ball Paul’ a crowd favorite

Sunday’s season-ending 128-117 win over the Orlando Magic was a meaningless game for the Sixers, but don’t tell that to the reserves. With the entire starting lineup resting, it gave others a chance to shine.

One was Reed, a second-round draft choice from DePaul, who despite his limited playing time has become a fan favorite. Known by his Twitter handle @Bball_Paul, he brings a lot of enthusiasm to each court appearance.

In 23 minutes, 32 seconds Sunday, Reed had career highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Magic, and the crowd loved it. He is that hardworking, no-nonsense player that Philadelphia fans appreciate.

“I think it helps my development a lot,” he said about Sunday’s playing time.

This week with the Sixers having extended practice time really for the first time since the season began, players such as Reed will be looked on to challenge the starters and push them. He said his goal this week, or really any time he steps on the floor, is simple.

» READ MORE: With some exceptions, the Sixers’ defense has been a strong suit this season

“Just bring energy to the facility every day,” Reed said. “If we are going in there competing, making sure I am giving my all. Making sure I am busting my butt every day in practice, bringing that energy every day in practice so those guys can feed off it.”

Reed has experienced many twists this season. He was the G League MVP for the Delaware Blue Coats, leading them to the championship before they lost to the Lakeland Magic, 97-78. In 15 regular-season G League games, the 6-foot-9 Reed averaged 22.3 points and 11.8 rebounds. One area in which he really improved was three-point shooting, where he hit 44.4%. During three playoff games, he averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds and shot 35.3% from three-point range.

He went from dominating the G League to returning as a deep reserve for the Sixers.

“It’s been very interesting,” he said. “We got the best team in the NBA.”

Because of that, he has seen limited time, but he has kept grinding, continuing to work and not let his head get swelled by his G League accomplishments.

“That is kind of a humbling experience, G League MVP,” he said. “It’s easy to get big-headed, but every day I remind myself to stay humble. I know I am good, but stay humble and keep working harder and harder and keep getting better every day. That is the mindset.”

He admits that seeing limited playing time can be difficult, but it is all part of developing in the NBA.

“It’s been up and down this season mentally,” he said. “I have to remind myself to stay humble. You know, trust the process, TTP.”

Starting five

Keith Pompey explores the question: How will teams defend Joel Embiid in the playoffs?

Mike Sielski writes about the gracious Hall of Fame speech Vanessa Bryant gave for Kobe.

Sielski also writes that part of Bryant’s Hall of Fame legacy includes his Olympic excellence, as he helped the U.S. win two gold medals.

Pompey writes that former Sixer Chris Webber had a long wait, but will finally be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

On Friday, the Sixers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in two decades. Here is our recap of their win over Orlando.

Marquee play-in game

The NBA must be doing cartwheels at the Western Conference 7-8 play-in game Wednesday, when No. 8 Golden State visits the Los Angeles Lakers (see schedule below).

LeBron James recently said how much he hates the play-in game concept, but after Sunday’s 110-98 win over New Orleans, the fifth in a row for the Lakers, there was no complaining. James talked mainly about the respect he had for Steph Curry and the Warriors.

“We are playing in my opinion the MVP of our league this year in Steph,” he said in his postgame Zoom interview. “We have to be prepared for everything they have. They have championship DNA as well. They been there. They know what it takes and feels like to be in pressure games, so we have to be ready for that opportunity and that pressure.”

» READ MORE: Kobe Bryant entered the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Here’s how he achieved basketball immortality. | Mike Sielski

As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James met the Warriors four straight years in the NBA Finals, winning in 2016 and losing in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

As for Curry, he won the NBA scoring title (32.0 ppg.) this season and is one of the biggest TV attractions.

“If Steph is not on the Golden State team, then what are we looking at?” James asked. “We get caught up in the records sometimes, we get caught up in ‘OK, who had the best record’ instead of saying ‘who had the best season’ and Steph has had in my opinion the best season all year.”

Important dates

Tuesday: Eastern Conference play-in series

  • Game 1: (10) Charlotte at (9) Indiana, 6:30 p.m., TNT

  • Game 2: (8) Washington at (7) Boston, 9 p.m., TNT

Wednesday: Western Conference play-in

  • Game 3: (10) San Antonio at (9) Memphis, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

  • Game 4: (8) Golden State at (7) L.A. Lakers, 10 p.m., ESPN

Thursday: Winner of Game 1 at loser of Game 2, 8 p.m. TNT

Friday: Winner of Game 3 at loser of Game 4, TBD, ESPN

Saturday: The NBA playoffs begin

Passing the rock

Question: Does Shake [Milton] deserve playoff minutes? I don’t think he does. — Josh Clinger, @Clinger_Josh on Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the question, Josh. There has been a lot of talk about Milton and he has been inconsistent at times, but he can create his own shot and take it to the basket and that will be important when more of a half-court style is utilized in the playoffs, so I disagree with you.

Milton averaged 13 points, and the Sixers will need some bench scoring. I agree that if he is inconsistent, the Sixers will cut his minutes, but I think Milton is a major key because even though Doc Rivers will likely extend the minutes of starters, the Sixers still need scoring off the bench and he can provide it.