Milton Delivers Career Performance Against Clippers
When the 76ers (37-24) returned from the All-Star Game break, Brett Brown met individually with each player on the roster.
His sitdown with Shake Milton was pretty transparent.
"You're not [going] to play, you're not in the rotation" is what Brown remembers telling the second-year guard.
He explained to Milton that for the home stretch, the Sixers were planning to turn ball-handling duties over to a combination Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and the recently acquired Alec Burks, who was picked up at the trade deadline.
But in the same breath, Brown also told Milton this:
"You have to stay ready."
A few days later, the Sixers lost Simmons for an indefinite period of time due to a back injury.
All of a sudden, there was a need. All of a sudden, Milton's world changed.
With the Sixers shorthanded, Milton, as it turned out, would in fact be playing. And based on what he's done with this newfound opportunity, he probably won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
Sunday's performance was simply the latest, emphatic example, one that was broadcast to dozens of millions of NBA fans on national television and social media.
Under the bright lights of a matinee match-up at STAPLES Center against the LA Clippers (41-19), the 23-year old Milton erupted for 39 points, a new career-high, and the second-highest scoring total for a second-year Sixer in the last two decades.
Along the way, Milton tied an all-time NBA record by making 13 consecutive 3-pointers. The streak began three games ago against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when Milton finished the evening 3-for-3 from deep.
He then went a perfect 5-for-5 in Thursday's victory over the New York Knicks, and started Sunday's competitive battle, a 136-130 loss, 5-for-5.
Outside observers may have been surprised by Milton. He, on the other hand, downplayed the outing a bit, reflecting on his success in matter-of-fact terms.
"I'm just going out there and hooping. I'm confident, and getting more and more confident as the games."
More on Milton's mind was the outcome of Sunday's contest. The Sixers came close, but couldn't bounce back from a 28-9 Clipper run that ended the third quarter.
"It was a great team effort," he said. "Everybody else just tried to rally. It was a great effort. It just wasn't enough."
Tobias Harris posted 25 points (11-21 fg / 3-7 3fg), while Alec Burks added 15 points (5-13 fg / 3-7 3fg) off the bench. Richardson got off to a strong start in Sunday's game, connecting on his first four shots before being forced to exit in the second quarter due to a concussion.
The Sixers built up a 25-11 edge midway through the first period. They trailed by two at the break, then went ahead by seven in the middle of the third.
Milton hit his sixth and seventh threes in the final three minutes of regulation, but the Clippers secured their fourth win in a row at the free throw line.
"His effort was amazing out there," Harris said of Milton. "We all know he can play. I think now with the opportunities, he's getting the right shots to go out there and do his thing and get good looks and score."
Starting in place of Simmons the past four games, Milton has averaged 21.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, while hitting nearly 74% of his 3-point tries (17-23).
"Life changes, things happen," said Brown. "Now in March, he's the starting point guard on a pretty good team, and just had 39 points on national TV against a candidate to win an NBA championship. It's a hell of a story."
People might not have been paying attention before. They certainly will be now.
• About five minutes into Sunday's third quarter, Al Horford was involved in a key sequence, first hitting a three, then throwing down a dunk after Mike Scott came up with a steal back the other way. The five-point swing gave the Sixers an 87-80 lead, and prompted an LA timeout. In what should have been to the surprise no one, Kawhi Leonard came back with a vengeance. He proceeded to score seven points during a 9-0 spurt that vaulted the Clippers back in front, and laid the foundation for their big game-changing run..
• The Sixers cranked out 39 points in Sunday's first quarter, their highest point total in any quarter of any road game this season.
• The Sixers' 21 3-pointers not only matched a season-high (12.25.19 vs. MIL) and set a season-high for a road game, it equaled a franchise record, too.
• Tobias Harris and Mike Scott, whom the Sixers landed in a trade last February, received tribute videos from the Clippers during Sunday's first half. It was the duo's first game back at STAPLES Center since the deal.
• Scott had a quality showing off the bench. He went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, and notched 11 points.
• Kawhi Leonard topped the Clippers with 30 points. Paul George, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell each had 24 points.
Yes, Shake made some history Sunday with his outside shooting, but this two-way play was arguably his top highlight of the day.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 1, 2020
The Sixers' two-game stop in Los Angeles wraps up Tuesday with the club's second and final meeting of the regular season with the Western Conference-leading Lakers (45-13). The Sixers handled L.A., 108-91, back on Jan. 25 at The Center. Tobias Harris topped his team with 29 points.