At the beginning of the season, we wondered if Shake Milton would be in the rotation. Now, it feels like there’s no way you can take him out of it — even when everyone is healthy.
Milton was terrific with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in the shorthanded Sixers’ 107-99 win over the Magic Friday. Tobias Harris was also excellent with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The victory puts the Sixers back over .500 again at 10-9. They’ll stay in Orlando for another matchup with the Magic Sunday.
Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and Jaden Springer all remained out.
Here are a few takeaways from an impressive win.
- Orlando’s length was a big problem early. Their starting unit is reminiscent of the 2017-18 Sixers that featured Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and JJ Redick. Long and a lot of fun to watch. P.J. Tucker does such an amazing job guarding bigger players. He really bothered No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, who scored just one point on 0 of 3 in the first. Conversely, the 7-foot-2 Bol Bol presented issues for the 6-8 Montrezl Harrell, putting up eight points and four rebounds.
- Another made three for Shake Milton early. Coming into tonight he was 7 of his last 16 over the last four games. Milton was a prolific shooter at SMU and hit over 43 percent from deep during his first full NBA season. Shake getting back to being an above-average three-point shooter would be a huge development.
- And another hot-shooting first quarter from De’Anthony Melton. He put up 13 points the other night in Charlotte, but clearly ran out of gas as the game went on. He went 4 of 6 for a game-high 10 points in the opening frame.
- The Sixers actually hung in OK early on despite the size advantage for Orlando. The Magic took the quarter 29-24. Most of the numbers were even across the board other than the free throw disparity. Orlando went 5 of 6 while the Sixers were 1 of 2 — both coming very late in the quarter.
- Milton really did an excellent job setting the table and getting his own. He doubled the team’s free throw total just minutes into the second quarter. He was up to four assists and got the Sixers to within one, 35-34, almost midway through the third. He also made a strong impact defensively with a block and a steal and playing solidly on the ball.
- Doc Rivers matched Tucker’s minutes with Banchero’s. Now that’s respect for a rookie.
- Like Tobias Harris’ aggressiveness over the last few games, but I do wonder if the hip and ankle injuries are affecting his jumper. He was just 2 of his last 12 from three coming and missed his first two attempts from deep Friday. Still, the Sixers’ offense needs as much creation as it can get right now and Harris is stepping up in that regard.
confirmed: the bank is open on black friday. pic.twitter.com/j5qVrxUxaq— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 26, 2022
- Harrell had a very difficult time on both ends. Against the Hornets the other night, his defense hurt the Sixers at times, but he provided enough offensively where he made mostly a positive impact. Wasn’t the case for much of the first half. Paul Reed picked up three fouls and the matchup was not exactly advantageous for him either. This is simply a small team when Embiid doesn’t play.
- Other than a silly foul by Melton on a Banchero heave, the Sixers closed the half strongly and actually won the second quarter, 28-27. Harris (14, five rebounds), Melton (13 points) and Milton (12 points, five rebounds, four assists) led the way. No other Sixer had more than four. Bol Bol (15) and Franz Wagner (10) were both in double-digits for the Magic, who took a 56-52 lead into the locker room. Orlando is one of the worst teams in the NBA when it comes to taking care of the basketball, but the Magic had just six turnovers in the half.
- The Sixers mixed in zone early and it seemed to help. They were able to get stops and turn it into quick offense on the other end. Speaking of quick offense, two more threes from Shake. He’s 4 of 7 for the game and 11 of his last 23.
- Defense and Milton playing like a man possessed helped the Sixers build their lead up to as much as eight, 77-69. They wisely let the Magic try to beat them from deep and did a much better job stopping dribble penetration. They also let Orlando beat itself as the Magic committed five turnovers in the period.
- Harris continued to play an aggressive and decisive brand of basketball. Harris and Milton combined for 43 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists through three quarters. They were easily the best players on the floor and the biggest reasons the Sixers had a 82-76 lead going into the final frame.
- Both Sixers’ bigs were much better in the second half. It seemed like Harrell and Reed adjusted to the Magic’s length. It also helped that the team’s perimeter defenders did much better at the point of attack.
- Georges Niang came up with a few clutch threes (and talking a lot of shit in the process). He was 5 of 7 and the Sixers were 14 of 36, a far cry from the other night in Charlotte.
- The Sixers actually had more offensive rebounds than the Magic (13 to 9). Reed had five of those, but he also fouled out with 2:16 left and Orlando cutting into the lead. Harrell checked in as the Sixers were holding just a five-point advantage, 103-98, with under two minutes to go.
- Man, Milton’s 10th assist (his first career double-double) couldn’t have been any sweeter or more well-timed. After a Franz Wagner missed three, Milton pulled down the defensive rebound — his eighth — then hit Harrell with a beautiful touchdown pass that Harrell finished empathically. It made it a three-possession game and essentially sealed the win. Milton was freaking awesome tonight.