By Connor Thomas
Last night, the Sixers got a taste of what the Denver Nuggets must have felt like last weekend when they played a crippled Philadelphia team with only 7 healthy players. The Miami Heat did not get any healthier following Tuesday night’s contest, and Philly got back multiple difference makers who returned from COVID ineligibility. Game 1 of this 2 game set was won by the Sixers in a hard fought overtime game, but with a closer to full strength roster, last nights’ game was not nearly as close. Duncan Robinson scored another 22 points for Miami, and was joined by Gabe Vincent who contributed his own 21, but the Heat were simply outmanned. If you read the box score from last night and saw that Joel Embiid, who scored a game high 45 points on Tuesday night, had only mustered up 9 points in the contest, you might have drawn this one up as a loss. But it was budding 6th man Shake Milton that shouldered the load for the Sixers this time out.
Milton, who was returning from a couple days off due to contact tracing protocol, showed no signs of rust as he shot an astounding 73% from the floor, 75% from 3, and was perfect from the free throw line. It truly felt like Shake and the Shakettes were on the floor whenever Milton stepped out on the hardwood of the Wells Fargo Center, as he also tallied 7 assists and ran the offense to near perfection. There were multiple Sixers in double figures, but none stood out quite like the young guard out of SMU. This was not a coming out party for Shake, who has shown off his scoring polish before. It was, however, another sign that there are huge strides being taken in his development as a true NBA guard. If the Sixers can consistently count on Milton to pour in double digit points off the bench, the team could be looking at a deep playoff run, and coach Doc Rivers could be looking at another 6th Man of the Year to add to his already long list of players to win that award under his supervision.
Outside of Shake’s performance, there were only a few more notable things that came out of last night’s game. Ben Simmons did answer the news that he was offered as part of a potential trade for James Harden with a vintage triple double performance. Simmons had a strong bounce back game following his abysmal performance in game 1 of the series. Clearly, Simmons is much better when the team is at full strength. Thanks to Simmons’ facilitating and Milton’s scoring, the game was never truly in doubt, with the Sixers holding a comfortable lead for most of the contest. One of the only other big takeaways from the team’s 9th win of the year was that Philadelphia moved to 4-0 in home and home sets, following up their sweep of the Washington Wizards earlier in the season. If the Sixers can continue to dispatch opponents in consecutive contests, it bodes well for the team’s ability to have long term success when the playoffs roll around.
The Sixers, as mentioned, moved to 9-4 on the season, good for 2nd most wins in the NBA trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat drop to 4-6 as Miami’s COVID aided slide continues. Shake Milton and the rest of the Shakettes will be back in action tomorrow night against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are still without their star player, Ja Morant who is recovering from an ankle injury. Hopefully the recovered Sixers will be able to continue their new winning streak.