KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Another seeding game, another undermanned opponent.
This time, however, the outcome was different for the 76ers inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. They defeated the undermanned and weary San Antonio Spurs, 132-130, Monday night thanks to Shake Milton’s three-pointer with 7.2 seconds left.
The Sixers pulled within one point with 22.2 seconds left as Joel Embiid hit the first of his two foul shots. He missed the second one, and Jakob Poeltl grabbed the defensive rebound and the Spurs called a timeout.
After running time off the clock, Derrick White was fouled with 10.4 seconds left. He missed the first shot and made the second to put the Spurs up 130-128 with 10.4 seconds remaining. Milton then drained a 26-foot three-pointer at the 7.2-second mark to give the Sixers a 131-130 lead.
Following a timeout, DeMar DeRozan drove the lane and passed to Poeltl, who missed a 3-foot layup with 2.4 seconds left. The Sixers got possession with 1.1 left. Embiid was fouled and hit a foul shot to clinch it. He purposely missed the second.
For the second game in a row, Milton exited the complex’s VISA Athletic Center without speaking to the media. He took over the starting point guard duties after two-time All-Star Ben Simmons was moved to power forward during the NBA restart.
“It’s good to be in that situation and hit the game-winner,” Embiid said. “I’m extremely happy for him. He’s been working really hard this season, and he’s showing up. That was a big shot that he hit for us, and he gave us the win.
“Like I said, I’m extremely happy for him.”
But Embiid doesn’t want the Sixers to settle. He knows they have keep improving, especially on the defensive end.
They were horrible in the fourth quarter for the second straight game. The Spurs scored 43 points in the final quarter on 71.4% (15 of 21) shooting. They also made 10 of 12 foul shot. The Sixers surrendered 46 fourth-quarter points to the Pacers Saturday.
“I think it stinks,” coach Brett Brown said of the fourth-quarter performance. “I think it’s not anything that we are or believe in or talk about. We were very lucky to win tonight. .... [The two horrible fourth quarter efforts are] not going to get anything of any importance done.”
Embiid had 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists to help the Sixers. The three-time All-Star did a great job of passing out of the post, setting up teammates. Tobias Harris added 25 points, while Josh Richardson had 19 points. Milton finished with 16 points and three assists after failing to score in Saturday’s seeding-game opener loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz had 12 points off the bench.
On Saturday, the Pacers were without All-Star post player Domantas Sabonis (left foot plantar fasciitis) and guards Jeremy Lamb (torn left anterior cruciate ligament) and Malcolm Brogdon (neck injury).
Monday, the Sixers (40-27) faced a Spurs squad (29-37) that was without seven-time All-Star post player LaMarcus Aldridge (right shoulder surgery), forward Trey Lyles (appendicitis), former Sixers guard Marco Belinelli (sprained left foot) and guard Bryan Forbes (right quadriceps tightness).
In addition to being undermanned, this marked San Antonio’s second game in as many days and third in four days.
DeRozan led the Spurs with 30 points, with 13 coming in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers also had a tough time guarding him, early on.
The 11-year veteran forward scored nine of the Spurs’ first 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting. His ninth point came on a three-pointer with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter. It marked the four-time All-Star’s first three-pointer since Jan. 10.
DeRozan finished with 11 points in the quarter. Richardson was just as impressive one day Brown said he needed to find his own offense. Richardson made back-to-back three-pointers while scoring 11 points in 10 minutes in the first quarter.
This came after Richardson totaled just four points Saturday. Milton’s first-quarter production also surpassed what he did Saturday.
He scored his first two points on the seeding-game schedule on a layup 9:26 into Monday’s game. His second basket came with 0.3 seconds left in the quarter to give the Sixers a 35-32 lead.
Philly had a balanced attack in the second quarter led by Harris’ seven points en route to taking a 64-62 lead at the break.
Simmons finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal before fouling out with 2:12 left. He didn’t attempt a three-pointer.
Brown was asked before the game about Simmons’ hesitancy to shoot from the perimeter in the final two scrimmages and in the seeding opener. That came after he wasn’t hesitant while burying 1-of-2 three-pointers in the first scrimmage against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I went back and studied the game, watched the game,” Brown said of Saturday’s seeding-game loss to Indiana. “There was one time that I thought, ‘Yup, you know, you could have fired a perimeter shot, and it wasn’t even really a three as a I remember it.
“It’s not on my mind like it is everybody else’s.”
The Sixers moved Simmons to power forward as a way to prevent opponents from sagging off him in the perimeter. In the paint, the 24-year-old has a knack for getting to the rim at ease when defenders back away.