If you ask Andre Miller why he has taken so many shots this season, he shrugs and whispers: "That's what's open."

It's difficult to argue with the 76ers' soft-spoken point guard. Teams have left him open. Through 19 games, defenders have left him so open that, prior to Friday night's win over the Detroit Pistons, he had taken 261 shots, a total second only to power forward Elton Brand.

That's 13.7 a game.

In 326 games over the course of four seasons - from 2002 to 2006 - Miller averaged 11.2 shots a game.

Last season, uncharacteristically, he averaged 14.1 shots in the regular season. Common thought entering this season was that Miller's shot numbers would drop considerably with the added threat of Brand.

But recently, his numbers have gone the opposite way of gas prices: up. He shot a combined 47 times in the Sixers' two weekday games: a win at Chicago and a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"These are shots I have to take right now," Miller said. "I'm the one with open shots. It's happening like that right now."

One finds it hard to argue with Miller, who spends hours post-practice shooting and pregame time watching tape.

But what, exactly, does Miller mean? Why must he take those shots? Why not pass on the open 15-footer and wait for something else?

"I have to prove I can shoot consistently or the defender will continue going behind the on-ball screen," Miller said.

Let's break that down.

Right now, when Miller runs a pick-and-roll with, say, Brand, his defender is sliding under the screen to prevent Miller from penetrating. If Miller does not establish a credible outside jumper, his defender can continue to respect only the drive to the hoop and not the outside shot.

Miller understands this. And so he is shooting for the sake of future passing.

In that pair of games last week - Chicago and Los Angeles - Miller averaged 27 points. But what will be paramount for the team's future success is his ability to draw the defender over the top of the screen, thus opening a lane for Miller to create opportunities for his teammates.

"I'm not shooting the ball well yet," Miller said. "But if I'm aggressive with my shot, it will open things up for everyone else."

Struggling Sammy

From Nov. 26 to Dec. 2 - four games - center Samuel Dalembert scored eight points, including two games in which he did not score. At Chicago on Dec. 2, Dalembert played only the first six minutes of each half.

Before their next game, Wednesday night against the Lakers, Dalembert smiled when asked if the limited minutes caused him frustration.

"Why should it?" he said. "We won, didn't we?"

Added Dalembert: "They pay me to play, so they're going to use me when they want to use me."

During the win at Chicago, Dalembert sat on the end of the Sixers' bench and cheered as if he'd played triple the minutes.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.