Malik Benjamin “Shake” Milton
Joel Embiid said he felt like Shake Milton was going to be needed.
And he was right, like always. Just look at Milton’s shot chart from his 14 points in 14 minutes.
Milton won’t go 4/5 on healthy threes every night, but a ball handling guard who can space the floor effectively is exactly what the sixers were missing, and if Shake can play at even near this level again and reopen the Shake Shack it makes the sixers team so much better.
Shake’s resurgence will be even bigger as the bench continues to struggle. Some of that is on Doc (who still for some reason continues to run lineups with 4 bench players), but the Sixers shouldn’t be hanging their hat on depth. Shake playing like this going forward (a big if, but it’s something to consider) also gives the Sixers more options going forward:
Outright start Shake over Danny Green, who looks outmatched this series
Replace Maxey as the primary ball handler/scorer off the bench
Put Ben at Center and have Shake as a primary ball handler with Embiid out of the game, meaning less Dwight Howard minutes
Have a bench of Maxey/Hill/Shake/Tisse/Dwight and simply play Furkan less (As an all bench lineup, I wouldn't do this because any all bench lineup is eye burning, but if Doc insists on running 10 deep I'd be fine with those 5 reserves)
All options have some merit, and I’d look for Rivers to at least experiment with the first two throughout the series to get some extra juice. That's also what he should be doing, because a failed 'experiment' against Brooklyn or Milwaukee could mean a 15 point hole Embiid has to dig you out of. Another note on Doc is that Furkan should not be seeing that much playing time, and there should be at a minimum of two starters in the game at all times. Also, no more of that Ben/Dwight lineup, the spacing on that is horrendous (And even worse with Thybulle in the game).
Two All-Stars Doing Their Thing
But for other Sixers players that are good, Joel Embiid set a new playoff career high with 40 points in just 35 minutes of action. He also becomes the third Sixer in history with consecutive playoff games of at least 39 points, joining Allen Iverson and Julius Erving. Wilt Chamberlin never accomplished that, and let's go a little deeper into the Embiid-Chamberlain comparison.
Per 100 possessions are stats that adjust to the time and era played. So, someone dropping 40 in 2005 and someone dropping 40 today are both impressive, but are different because the early 2000s were a slower era. Per 100 possessions fixes that and measures everyone equally. This season, Embiid scored a monstrous 44.1 points per 100 possessions. In Wilt Chamberlain’s 1961-1962 season (where he averaged 50 points!!!), Chamberlain scored at a rate of 38.4 points per 100 possessions. In these playoffs, Embiid has pushed that number even higher to 49 points every 100 possessions (!!!), on a torn meniscus as well. Statistically, Joel Embiid is a better scorer than Prime Wilt. He’s on a mission and simply refuses to lose. We get to watch flat out dominance on offense paired with a defensive monster that lets Embiid have an argument for the best playoff performer in the NBA so far this year.
In other news about sixers players that are good, let’s talk about Ben Simmons.
We can't talk about Ben without talking about his 4 points, but I could care less. He took 3 shots, facilitated well the whole game, and played great defense on Trae (we’ll talk more about that in a minute). In a loss the sixers trailed the whole game, that’d be concerning. But the sixers were up large in the beginning and while it would’ve been nice to see him score, it wasn’t needed with Embiid and Tobias having amazing nights and other guys stepping up. I’m not some huge Ben Simmons fan and I think Daryl Morey would be foolish not to look for an upgrade this offseason, but he did what he was supposed to tonight, and that was to get the sixers the win. To get wins against a team like Brooklyn, he’ll need to do more but he was far from a problem this game. Also, bad Free Throw shooting hurts you more the further you get into the postseason, and that is something Ben needs to improve on regardless of situation or game.
Simmons also did typical Simmons things on defense, providing a great game guarding Young, including this defensive highlight.
And through two games, Simmons has held Trae Young to 4 points, 2/6 FG, 33.3 FG%, 0/2 3P, 4 assists.
That’s great, and Philly also made a clear effort to get Ben on Trae more (Which is the right move, obviously).
Simmons went from guarding Trae 11% of the time in Game 1, to 45% of the time in Game 2. more of that please, because Young struggled to find rhythm all night long with Ben on him. Matisse Thybulle also saw the Hawks PG a lot, which makes sense because he legitimately has an argument for an All-Defensive team while playing bench minutes, and with a consistent jump shot I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he can be a one-of-a-kind role player.
Best (or Worst) of the Rest
Tobias Harris is a perfect number 2 scoring option, pouring in 16 on 8/9 shooting in a dominating first quarter. So far these playoffs, he’s scoring 23.9 points on 53/34/88 splits, to go along with almost 10 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes per game. Getting the best version of Tobi is big for the team.
Danny Green is not looking great. He’s shooting 11% on threes for this series and looks lost on defense. I’d look for a change to be coming soon (and if not soon, possibly in the next round). He could be replaced by Thybulle, George Hill, or Shake Milton depending on their play.
Dwight Howard and Tyrese Maxey are in theory, a good bench pick and roll duo but just look a little off so far. Dwight isn’t necessarily playing bad, but running Ben as a backup 5 should be the move as much as possible. Maxey provided a nice spark and energy to help close out Washington, but is just 2/10 on shot attempts this series, and could see playing time reduced if (and probably only if) Shake can continue his hot play
They had some questionable stretches, but overall Philly looked much better on defense this game, which is nice to see 👍, and also encouraging as they try to at minimum split the two games in the Hawks home arena.
On Friday, the Sixers go to Atlanta to try an take a 2-1 lead. The game starts at 7:30 and is nationally aired on ESPN.