Monday night, the Sixers welcomed the top-seeded Heat to the Well Fargo Center in the second game of a back-to-back. The night before, the Sixers suffered a brutal lost to the Toronto Raptors, and hours before the team’s matchup against the Heat, we learned the team would also be without their two superstars Joel Embiid (Rest) and James Harden (Hamstring Maintenance). The absences of Embiid and Harden would open the door to the return of some familiar faces and a style of basketball the Sixers have gone away from recently.
Korkmaz/Shake Milton Getting on the Right Track
The 76ers missing their two superstars forced Doc Rivers to use more of his bench, specifically Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton, who would play increased minutes, and they maximized their time last night.
Furkan Korkmaz has been benched due to his inconsistent play prior to last night’s game against the Miami Heat. This game presented no bigger opportunity than for Korkmaz to right the ship and get his game back on track. Furkan totaled 27 minutes, 18pts, six rebounds, two assists, and 4/7 from three, shooting 58.3% from the field.
Although Korkmaz has never shied away from shooting the ball, he has struggled with his consistency throughout this season. Last night the Sixers should hope that this is a start to seeing Korkmaz returning to form and being the knock-down shooter he is called to be on this team.
Shake Milton, who has not really been playing much since returning from injury this year, contributed big time in last night’s win. Milton tallied 31 minutes, 20 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block. Shake was aggressive all night in finding his shot and creating for others on the floor. In the fourth, with 11 minutes left to play, Shake continued his great night by just taking it to Heat guard Tyler Herro on consecutive baskets helping the Sixers regain the lead.
The Sixers’ Pace and Passing
In past games, the Sixers’ offense stales due to the lack of pace and ball movement, which is not uncommon with two ball-dominant players such as Joel Embiid and James Harden. If the Sixers wanted any chance to stay competitive and possibly win this game, playing with pace and sharing the ball would be a necessity without their star power in the lineup. The Sixers played with great pace, winning the rebounding battle last night 45 – 34 and getting out and running in transition. The Sixers’ ball movement was great last night out, assisting the Heat 26 – 23, keeping the Heat players having to defend the whole court, which created many open shots for the Sixers.
Once again, Tyrese Maxey has shown why he is emerging as a star in the League. He is clearly the third scoring option on this Sixers team. We have become accustomed to Maxey rising to the occasion when other starters are missing from the lineup. Tyrese last night played with the energy and aggressiveness he always plays with, but the Sixers would need a closer as the game still was in the balance with the Sixers with a real chance to upset the number one seed Miami Heat.
Tyrese Maxey answered the bell with a little over two minutes left to play in the fourth. Maxey went on to score nine points, with one of his scores coming from a side step three-pointer that would even James Harden smile, and that had Joel Embiid out of his seat, rejoicing, pushing the Sixers lead to eight. Maxey not to be outdone by his own work. After a bad inbounds pass, Maxey would seal the win for the Sixers with a transition chase down block heat player Caleb Martin. Tyrese Maxey finishes the game with 28pts, 5rebs, 4ast 3/7 from three while shooting 60% from the field in 28 minutes.
This was a great win for the Sixers and a winning that was much needed for some key role players who will be needed for the playoffs. Korkmaz and Shake Milton gaining confidence becoming more involved in the Sixers offense has to be a point of emphasis going forward, keeping the young role players’ confidence up while also helping the whole team and the Embiid Harden from carrying so much of the scoring load.
The pace ball movement the Sixers played with has to continue once the two stars ate back as it will make it harder for a defense to lock in and defend. Tyrese Maxey should always be involved in the offensive scheme as it adds another element to the offense that other teams will need to account for in the playoffs. Head Coach Doc Rivers should take all these factors into greater consideration moving forward as it can only help his team win.