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Sixers’ Isaiah Miles starring in major role on Summer League team

The Saint Joseph’s product catalyzed a major upset over Phoenix with 20 points and six rebounds.

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Isaiah Miles is capitalizing on his second Summer League opportunity with the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia entered Summer League tournament play as the 30th seed and Miles paced the Sixers with 20 points and six rebounds in a 88-86 win over third-seeded Phoenix Thursday. Teaming with 40-point man Furkan Korkmaz, the two wings collectively scored 38 points to engender a spirited come-from-behind win.

Miles, 24, propelled Philadelphia offensively with his fervid catch-and-shoot ability. The Saint Joseph’s product finished 6-of-8 from downtown and provided Philadelphia’s guards with a passing outlet. Miles shot just 1-for-6 from deep in his prior two games and his timely offensive breakout will be cemented in Sixers Summer League lore. Markelle Fultz provided the hesi-stepback jimbo last year and Isaiah Miles recorded 20 and six in a 30 seed/three seed upset.

Miles started at power forward Thursday night and was tasked with guarding former fourth-overall pick Dragan Bender. Miles’ defense stood out in his previous two games and Thursday night he embodied the 3-and-D role wings aspire to achieve. Via Streamable, Miles plays some stout perimeter defense on Bender despite giving up weight and playing up one position at PF. Miles crowds Bender and forces the big man to defer to Mikal Bridges for a low-efficient three.

Bender picks up his dribble, and Miles’ 7’2” wingspan and endless energy prevent Bender from comfortably winning off the dribble.

Miles attested to his defensive coach relaying some advice prior to tipoff, honing in on mitigating the six-inch difference. Miles couples his length with serviceable lateral quicks to hard hedge on a pick-and-roll. Davon Reed is a deadeye shooter for the Phoenix Suns and Miles switches onto him rather seamlessly. Again, Miles forces Phoenix into an undesirable look, compliments from his defense and awareness.

Another defensive play stood out in Philadelphia’s first half and Miles’ pure hustle prevents a transition basket. After a two-point outcome favoring the Sixers, Miles’ effort on this particular play is noteworthy and game-changing. He could’ve opted to cede the fast break bucket and conserve energy for offense, but Miles admirably enters and draws a foul.

Now, let’s transfer over to Miles’ offensive performance. We’re going to begin from Miles’ final highlight, which iced Thursday’s contest. Phoenix pressured Philadelphia with a double teaming maneuver on-ball, but Miles’ awareness and selfless ball movement punctuated a memorable outing for the 24-year-old 6’7” wing. When Davon Reed covered Miles, the Sixers’ forward immediately swung it to point guard Askia Booker who drained an open corner three to go up 85-81 with 15.5 seconds left.

Miles never hesitated, and he made the perfect read when pressured to ensure Booker attempted a high-percentage three.

“That’s just my game. Muscle memory, not thinking, just letting the game come to you,” Miles said. “I was shooting well the whole night so I had a lot of attention towards me. So when I caught the ball, I saw Shaquille Harrison step out on me. Booker was wide open on the wing and my contested three would’ve been a worse shot than his wide-open corner three. I’m glad that I was able to make that pass and I’m glad he was able to knock it down. That was a big shot for us. That was the shot that won the game for us.”

Miles last played during Philadelphia’s matchup with Los Angeles Saturday night and had time to evaluate while watching the Sixers’ game with Washington plus working in practice. Miles processed how he could effectively shoot throughout games as well, via relaxing and envisioning made shots.

Miles employs a unique approach in practice when preparing for threes during games. His unconventional method of laying back-first on the hardwood and perfecting his form by shooting upwards definitely translated Thursday night.

“Me and my teammates, [especially] Demetrius Jackson, we actually got ahold of one of the basketballs,” Miles said. “He knows I just lay on my back and do a lot of form shooting in the air. I’ve been doing that since I was in high school. I think it actually helps during the games.”

Miles’ first three came in transition, as he provided wing Furkan Korkmaz with a perimeter outlet to launch an accurate swing pass. On the reception, Miles utilized a quick ball dip in an angled motion before drilling an open three. His feet are linear to the basket’s path, his form follows a similar trajectory, he gets lift off the hardwood and his clean mechanics result in a swish.

Miles made Philadelphia’s first two threes on the night, which turned out to be a precursor for a breakout shooting performance. Miles set a ball screen for Korkmaz and popped to the perimeter for a passing outlet. Again, Miles wasted zero time in settling into his jumper and gave Philadelphia an early 10-7 lead. Maybe, this could be a potent pick-and-roll tandem in Delaware this season and Thursday provided a preview of the Korkmaz-Miles connection.

From an overhead view, Korkmaz, Miles and Zhaire Smith provided three outlets for Jackson. Deandre Ayton fortified the interior, leaving Miles open for a precise swing pass and having to relocate to contest. Miles beats Ayton’s contest and cuts the Sixers’ deficit to single digits, as the team would continue clawing into Phoenix’s second-half lead. Ayton’s 7’5” wingspan nearly rejected Miles’ shot, but Miles relied on a quick gather and release to ascend the goliath-like Ayton.

This two-man action between Jackson and Miles has Miles slipping to the perimeter and faking a high-ball screen. Bender’s immobility allowed Miles to relocate along the arc, as Bender can’t recover, receive the swing pass and drain the timely three. Miles provided a scoring punch when the team lacked offensive juice in their first three games. As Miles alluded to, zero hesitation and offensive awareness permeated in his performance Thursday night.

Averaging 11.6 PPG while shooting a clean 50.0 percent from deep through three Summer League games, Miles brings essential spacing and defensive energy for Philadelphia to advance Saturday night in Las Vegas. The “Summer of Isaiah Miles” tour has Philadelphia witnessing a breakout performance from a Big 5 product hungry to make the league.

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