Joel Embiid jumped onto the field and pointed at Shake Milton after an electrifying stretch that could have saved the Philadelphia season and shouted, “I told you to be ready!”
Sure enough, Embiid – who had a sideline showdown last season with Milton – rallied the forgotten guard with a pre-game pep talk.
“For some reason,” Embiid said, “I felt like he was needed.”
And he was.
Milton buried a 32-foot foot and scored 14 points, and Embiid recorded a record 40 points and 13 rebounds in the playoffs to lead the 76ers past the Atlanta Hawks 118-102 in Game 2 on Tuesday night and even the Eastern Conference semi-final.
Game 3 is Friday in Atlanta.
“It really shows what the playoffs are all about,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said. “You never know who is going to be able to step up.”
Milton took his turn in Game 2.
Milton has at times shone as the sixth man this season before falling out of favor and going through a terrible first round against Washington (3.4 points per game).
As reserves fell to Philly for the second straight game against the Hawks – the Sixers had no bench points at halftime – coach Doc Rivers gave Milton a shot in the third.
The Sixers lost a 21-point lead and Trae Young had two free throws in the third for Atlanta’s first lead, 80-79.
Then came Shake.
Milton didn’t play in the first half but quickly buried a quick 3 to bring the score to 82-80 for Philadelphia’s first bench points in 34 minutes. He buried a long-range 3 to the horn that sent the Sixers in the fourth quarter with a 91-84 lead and sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. He continued with a jumper early in the fourth which made it 95-84.
Rivers kept the faith and Shake rocked the Hawks and helped the Sixers have a 14-0 run that opened the game and they avoided a second straight disaster at home.
“He got ready and he believed he would get another shot and he got it,” Rivers said.
Milton’s 14 minutes were the most valuable in Game 2.
Embiid has proven his worth all season.
Playing with a tear in the cartilage in his right knee, Embiid wore the Sixers early shortly after discovering he was a finalist in the NBA MVP vote. Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry stabilized the one-game seeded Sixers after falling 26 delays and were stunned in a Game 1 loss.
Young scored 21 points for the Hawks, Danilo Gallinari scored 21 and Kevin Huerter had 20.
“Every time we got close, we just turned the ball over or gave up a basket,” said coach Nate McMillan. “We haven’t really done a good job of controlling or building our defense all night.”
The 18-fan-led Sixers and Sixers – who were only recently allowed to race the place – seemingly sparked a pandemonium season early on.
Much like in Game 1, the 76ers’ reserves were unable to keep the game competitive. The five bench players used in the first half were less and less (George Hill and Furkan Korkmaz were both -11) and Atlanta came back strong. Huerter and Gallinari had a back-to-back 3 that helped the Hawks come closer to 57-55 at halftime.
NBA Playoffs Live 18a Brooklyn @ Milwaukee Gm3 10.06 2430
Friday June 11 12:30 a.m.
Young, the top playoff player, was limited to 11 points in the half after scoring 25 points in the first half of Game 1. The difference was defensive. NBA Defensive Player of the Year finalist Ben Simmons got the assignment in it after Danny Green was outmatched in Game 1. The Sixers were ready for Young: On a possession in the first quarter, Young led the way and hit Embiid. Young retreated past the 3 point line but was chased and pressed by Embiid. Trapped along the sideline, Young threw a wild pass that was picked up by Green.
At the end of the quarter, Young took one of his usual 3 long, long drives closer to the 76ers logo than the 3-point line, but the 6-foot-10 Simmons used his outstretched right arm and pulled out. deflected Young’s 6-1. shot straight into the air. Simmons caught the ball.
“I think it was good that we came here and got a game,” Young said. “Obviously, they’re a very good team on their field. Getting at least one match was something we wanted to do. “
Embiid “disappointed” with MVP result
Embiid only had one first-place vote in the NBA MVP vote and finished second behind Denver’s Nikola Jokic for the award. The two great men still have their playoff teams. Jokic averaged 26.4 points. Embiid averaged 28.5 points. Embiid averaged 10.6 rebounds. Jokic was at 10.8.
So why this great disparity in the vote? Jokic was the big winner, getting 91 of the first 101 ballots.
Jokic played all 72 games while injuries limited Embiid to 51.
“I think it was a two-man race,” Rivers said. “Just so many great players in our league. I think the deciding factor was probably the games played. It certainly played a role. Obviously I was hoping for our guy but you can’t take anything away from Jokic.”
Allen Iverson in 2001 is the last Sixer to win the MVP award.
Embiid said the finish was “disappointing”.
“As a player you work hard at times like this, but it’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.
Next: Game 3
Joel Embiid plays through a torn meniscus in his left knee, but has averaged 39.5 points and 11 rebounds in this streak. The Sixers edged the Hawks by 27 points (18 per 100 possessions) in their 73 minutes on the floor, and they should continue to earn those minutes as the series heads to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday. But those minutes with him off the ground will continue to be critical.
The Sixers may not need another 28-8 like the one they got on Tuesday, but may need Milton in their rotation from now on. Playoff basketball can require more dribbling creation than the regular season, and Milton a little more dribbling juice than any other Sixers goaltender.