KISSIMMEE, Fla. — How do you feel about the 76ers’ opening-round opponent?
Some folks are glad that the Eastern Conference’s sixth-seeded Sixers will face the third-seeded Boston Celtics. They’ll tell you Joel Embiid will be a matchup problem for the undersized Celtics. They’ll point to the Sixers’ winning three of the teams’ four regular-season meetings.
We’ll see how that translates when the teams meet for Game 1 at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The Celtics (48-24) have been one of the league’s hottest teams at the NBA restart. The Sixers, meanwhile, have looked out of sync.
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Shake Milton needs to find his shot.
Milton was the hottest Sixer right before the NBA shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he’s really cooled off after the four-month break.
The point guard has made just 7 of 23 three-point attempts, 30.4%, through seven seeding games. He went a combined 0-for-7 against the Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns. Milton did, however, have the go-ahead three-pointer with 7.2 seconds left to propel the Sixers over the San Antonio Spurs.
That came one game after he was held scoreless, missing his lone shot, in the seeding opener against the Indiana Pacers. And he’s averaging nine points entering tonight’s seeding-game finale against the Houston Rockets at The Arena.
He’s definitely dropped off since averaging 14.1 points and shooting 50% from three-point land in his 16 starts before the shutdown. In his last five games — all starts — before the break, he averaged 19.4 points and shot 51.9% on threes.
That stretch was highlighted by career-high 39 points in a six-point road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers back on March 1. He made 7 of 9 threes, including his first five, to go with five assists. In the process, Milton tied the NBA record for most consecutive made three-pointers with 13 over three games.
Milton started the final eight games before the shutdown because Ben Simmons was sidelined with a pinched nerve in his lower back. Back then, Milton’s role was to get buckets.
During the restart, the Sixers kept Milton as the starting point guard and shifted Simmons to point forward before Simmons was sidelined again, this time needing knee surgery. Milton’s new role is more of a facilitator and floor spacer than a go-to guy.
But he’s needs to get back into a groove for the Sixers to have success vs. Boston.
Looking for a great Celtics follow on Instagram during the first-round series? Then do yourself a favor and follow Boston assistant and former Penn coach Jerome “Pooh” Allen at @jeromeallen53.
The North Philly native and former Penn and Episcopal Academy standout provides an inside look at the Celtics’ life inside the NBA bubble in his video series called “The ReStart.”
I enjoyed watching Episode 7, which was titled “Questions on Philly” and featured Celtics guard and former Roman Catholic standout Brad Wanamaker answering questions from Allen. Then Episode 8 showed Allen and Celtics players Jaylen Brown, Javonte Green and Marcus Smart practicing New Edition dance steps for their dance group “Celtics Edition.” Their dance steps are a tribute to the city of Boston. Tacko Fall hasn’t been added to the group yet.
Even diehard Sixers fans will enjoy this series, especially with Allen providing a distinct Philly flavor. He even has cameos from Philly-native NBA players who are inside the bubble.
Monday: Sixers vs. Boston Celtics at The Field House, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday: Sixers vs. Celtics at The Field House, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Aug. 21: Celtics vs. Sixers at The Field House, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Aug. 23: Celtics vs. Sixers at The Field House, 1 p.m., ABC
*Aug. 25: Sixers vs. Celtics at TBD, TBD
*Aug. 27: Celtics vs. Sixers at TBD, ESPN
*Aug. 29: Sixers vs. Boston at TBD, TNT
All games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@PompeyOnSixers)
Question: What should the Sixers draft with the 22nd pick, best player available or a team need? — @Damifino83 on Twitter
Answer: What’s up, Clarence? I see that you are from Charleston. My father is from Bluefield, and I still have some family down there. I hope you have a great weekend.