LOS ANGELES — Happy Monday, folks!
Let’s get this week started. The 76ers’ main goals have to include getting a road victory and remaining healthy. They have been unable to do both lately. In Sunday’s 136-130 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Josh Richardson (nose contusion, concussion) became the third starter to suffer a game-ending injury over a span of five games.
The Sixers (37-24) were already without All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons hasn’t played since experiencing a pinched nerve in his lower back at Milwaukee on Feb. 22. Embiid has been out since suffering a shoulder sprain at Cleveland on Wednesday.
Sunday’s outcome at the Staples Center extended the Sixers’ road losing streak to eight games. They’ll look to snap that skid Tuesday night against the Lakers at Staples.
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It appears that the Sixers almost messed this thing up. If not for injuries, Shake Milton would have been nothing more than a towel-waving cheerleader during the final third of the season.
Sixers coach Brett Brown acknowledged after Sunday’s game that Milton wasn’t part of the team’s plans. It was a game in which the second-year point guard scored a career-high 39 points and tied the NBA record for the most consecutive made three-pointers, with 13 over three games. Milton made 7 of 9 threes Sunday, including his first five, and had five assists.
“You sit down and you speak to every single player and explain very clearly that ‘this is your role.’ My discussion with Shake is that ‘you’re not playing,’ ” Brown said of his post-All-Star break meeting with Milton. “ ’You’re not in the rotation. I’m going with [Alec Burks], [Josh Richardson], and Ben Simmons and you have to stay ready. This is your role, so that we are nice and clear.’ ”
“I mean, it definitely sucks,” he said. “But I can control what I can control.”
He done that well.
The Sixers played him for 13 minutes, 42 seconds against the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 20 — the first game back from the All-Star break — because Simmons was out with lower-back tightness. Simmons returned the following game, against Milwaukee, but left in the first quarter because of a pinched nerve in his back. As a result, Milton logged 21:52 seconds off the bench.
Since then, he’s been in the starting lineup and making the most of it. His last five games — the four starts and the Bucks contest — Milton is averaging 20.4 points. He’s also made 22 of 30 three-pointers, 73.3%. His 7 three-pointers Sunday are a career high.
“For him to hear that and learn that life changes and things happen, he’s clearly ready,” Brown said of the meeting.
Brown gives some credit to Sixers player-development coach Tyler Lashbrook for keeping Milton on track.
“Shake did his G League duties,” Brown said. “He comes in and sits on a bench and swings a towel. Now in March, he’s the starting point guard on a pretty good team and just had 39 points on national television against a candidate to win the NBA championship.
“It’s all true, and it’s one hell of a story.”
Kyle O’Quinn is starting to make an impact as a reserve center for the Sixers. But Brown will tell you that he has been making an impact as a good locker-room guy for some time. Sunday night was perhaps the latest example of that.
O’Quinn joined the postgame media scrum for Milton’s interview. He even extended his left fist as if it were a microphone to record what Milton said. Then O’Quinn congratulated his teammate on his career performance and gave him a fist bump.
The eighth-year veteran had 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and a steal in 7:16 of action against the Clippers. This marked O’Quinn third straight appearance after not playing in 12 of the previous 13 games.
Tomorrow: Sixers at Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m., TNT
Thursday: Sixers at Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Saturday: Sixers at Golden State Warriors, 8:30 p.m., ABC
March 11: Detroit Pistons at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
March 14: Indiana Pacers at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@PompeyOnSixers)
Question: Do you think Shake stays in the starting lineup when the team is healthy? — @AlexStavig
Answer: Happy Monday, Alex. Thanks for the great question. To me, keeping him in the starting lineup would make the most sense.
I would move him to point guard, and slide Simmons to point forward. Have Simmons handle the ball in the high post. We’ve been saying for a while that the Sixers need a point guard who can stretch the floor. They have that in Milton. The second-year player is not afraid of the spotlight or intimidated by playing against All-Star-caliber opponents. So yes, I would keep him in the starting lineup once Embiid, Richardson and Simmons return from injures.