The Sixers’ home and road splits are well documented: 28-2 at the Wells Fargo Center and 9-21 away from Philadelphia. The Sixers, coming off Thursday’s 115-106 home win over the New York Knicks, are off from practice Friday, will return Saturday and then head to the West Coast. There, a four-game road trip will begin Sunday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
The Sixers needed a big game Thursday from Tobias Harris, who had 34 points against the Knicks, but another player who is coming on in Simmons’ absence is Shake Milton. Milton has so often been the forgotten player this year for the Sixers, but most times he has earned a chance, he has produced.
Now, when needed the most, the 23-year-old guard is looking more confident each game.
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Early in the season, Milton was getting some rotation minutes before he got hurt and missed six games because of a bone bruise and mild sprain of his left knee. When he returned, he didn’t become a consistent member of the rotation until Josh Richardson suffered a hamstring strain in a 107-95 loss at Toronto on Jan. 22.
Since then, Milton has seen regular rotation minutes, except for a 42-second, late-game cameo in a 110-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 11.
In 15 games including that Jan. 22 contest in Toronto, Milton has made 11 starts and has averaged 10.6 points and is shooting 50.5% from the field and 50.9% from three-point range in 23.8 minutes per game.
After the Knicks win, coach Brett Brown, who previously said there would be an open competition for Simmons’ point-guard minutes, gave Milton a strong endorsement
“At this stage, if everybody is looking for a tournament, he’s winning it,” Brown said. "He’s the starting point guard."
Milton had 19 points, shooting 6-for-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from three-point range against the Knicks. The night before when the Sixers suffered a disappointing 108-94 loss at Cleveland, Milton was their best player with 20 points.
The 6-foot-5 Milton, now in his second season out of SMU, acknowledged that playing sporadically was difficult, but he has just kept grinding.
“It’s definitely tough, but just making sure that you’re staying in shape,” he said about dealing with previous inactivity. “We do a good job of playing the low-minute guys, and we are playing pickup and making sure that we are staying ready.”
Against the Knicks, the Sixers shot 15-for-31 from three-point range (48.4%). According to Basketball-reference.com, it was the seventh time the Sixers have shot better than 48% on threes this season. They are 6-1 in those games.
Here are the instances:
Nov. 8: 100-97 L at Denver, 13 for 26 (50%)
Nov. 23: 113-86 W vs. Miami, 14 for 29 (48.3%)
Dec. 2: 103-94 W vs. Utah, 13 for 26 (50%)
Dec. 12: 115-109 W at Boston, 13 for 26 (50%)
Jan. 6: 120-113 W vs. Oklahoma City, 13 for 26 (50%)
Feb. 7: 119-107 W vs. Memphis, 14 for 25 (56%)
Feb. 27: 115-106 W vs. New York, 15 for 31 (48.4%)
The Sixers are 18th in the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage at 35.4%.
Sunday: Sixers at Los Angeles Clippers, 3:30 p.m. ABC
Tuesday: Sixers at Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m. TNT
March 5: Sixers at Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
March 7: Sixers at Golden State Warriors, 8:30 p.m. ABC
March 11: Detroit Pistons at Sixers, 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Question: I don’t understand why basketball players have so much trouble winning on the road. It’s not like baseball where the field is different in every park. Or even football where the wind might blow from strange angles. The basketball court never changes! I don’t get it. — @Beetle_Bob on Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Beetle. This is one that has no easy answer, but I will say that the Sixers are a team that feeds off emotion. Embiid, especially, gets added energy from the crowd.
Even though the fans have booed the Sixers this year when they aren’t playing well, they also are passionate when the team does well. Brett Brown has often credited them for the team’s success at home.