The Sixers bench contributed just 13 points to the effort against the Hawks in 74 minutes played — a significant drop from the 28.9 they’ve averaged on the season. Remove Mike Scott, and the number drops to 3 bench points. Raul Neto and Furkan Korkmaz combined for 41 minutes, yet neither registered a single point. Korkmaz was ice cold from the floor (0-7 FG), which created a void as the team has been relying on Korkmaz for about 11 points per game since the beginning of the January before last night.
Late in last night’s broadcast, Marc Zumoff remarked on the Sixers abundance of free throws. I thought to myself, “The game has been slow and the refereeing, not great, but damn... over 40 free throws for the Sixers? How are they losing?” Well, because getting the line for 45 attempts is all well and good but it kind of defeats the advantage if they’re going to put the Hawks there for 37 attempts of their own. The Sixers and the Hawks had the same amount of points from the line (32) despite the Sixers have 8 more attempts (45 to 37). Joel Embiid notably struggled from the line, going just 2-for-7. I have to wonder if that splint on his left hand is bothering his routine a bit — he’s now 7-for-15 from the line (46.6%) since returning from injury. For the Hawks, Trae Young was an absurd 18-for-20 from the charity stripe.
We can dig through stats all we want but when the Sixers put on an performance like last night, the story of the games easy to tell: they didn’t play defense. The Sixers gave up 127 points to the Hawks, tied for the 2nd most points they’ve given up in a game this season (and the game it’s tied with needed overtime to get there). The Sixers were trapping Trae Young in the backcourt, but there appeared to be zero communication among the Sixers defense about what to do once the Hawks got it over halfcourt and out of Burke’s hands. It led to a period during the 4th quarter, while the Sixers were still in the game, when it felt like the Hawks were getting uncontested layups on every single possession. That’s not a game the Sixers can play, they’re not constructed to win a race to 130 points.
Let’s not get too wrapped up in the negatives and try to take away some positives, shall we? Shake Milton dropped a career-high 27 points against the Hawks, 16 of which came in the first half. Shake scored every which way you could imagine, going 7-for-12 from the floor (including 5-9 3PT) on spot ups and dribble drives, and converting 8 of his 10 free throws. He also collected 6 assists, 3 of which came from working a two-man game with Embiid:
It was really a complete showing from Milton and if he keeps it up, the Sixers just may have found themselves a diamond in the rough with Milton, who they selected 54th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. The versatility of his offensive game, playing on or off ball, fits well with both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Something has changed for Ben Simmons. Against the Hawks, he got to the line for 13 FTA and hit 11 of those for 84.6% from the line. Over his last 6 games, Ben is averaging 10.0 FTA per game and hitting 73.3%. Both marks are well above his career marks in the same categories: 4.9 FTA on 59.1%. In the same span, his true shooting percentage is freakish 71.6%. He’s gotten to double-digit free throw attempts in 3 of his last 5 contests. If this trend becomes a regular part of Simmons’ game, his offensive value takes a significant leap.