Could the 76ers’ Bench Be Turning Things Around at Last?

NBA: FEB 06 76ers at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: The Philadelphia 76ers react to a play during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat last night in what was believed to be a throwaway game for the Sixers. Philadelphia rested both of their biggest stars coming into the second game of a back-to-back. Both of the Bonus Brothers, James Harden and Joel Embiid, were given time to rest against the Heat after they had played a combined three hundred and eighty-eight minutes in the past five games.

Without their two best players, many figured the team would get a big game out of star point guard Tyrese Maxey, but that Philadelphia would ultimately lose the game due to the poor play from the bench in recent games. However, the 76ers got both the Maxey game fans wanted and a win thanks to the bounce-back game the bench had. With fantastic performances from some previously struggling players, could the 76ers’ bench be turning things around at long last?

Who Sparked the Change for the 76ers’ Bench?

The engineer of the bench unit was struggling guard Shake Milton. Shake Milton, who had a career year last year, has been having a rough season thus far into this season. His points per game (13.0 to 8.2) and assists per game (3.1 to 2.4) have both fallen in comparison, as has his field goal percentage (45.0% to 41.9%) and his 3 point percentage (35.0% to 29.1%). Milton hasn’t looked the same since returning from injury earlier this year. However, that may have changed last night.

Against the Heat, Milton scored an efficient (50.0% from the field) 20 points in the Harden and Embiid’s absence. His stat-stuffing didn’t stop there, though, as Milton secured five rebounds and six assists while also getting one steal and one block in the victory. His fantastic play was essential in the 76ers pulling away in the 113-106 victory, but he wasn’t the lone bright spot on the bench.

Sixers shooter Furkan Korkmaz finally busted out of his slump last night. After playing only one minute in the win against the Dallas Mavericks on March 18th and recording a DNP in the heartbreaking loss against the Toronto Raptors on the 20th, it appeared as if Korkmaz’s poor play as of late had gotten him removed from Head Coach Doc Rivers’ rotation. Yet, when the Sixers were short-handed, Rivers trusted the Turkish sharpshooter to play 27 minutes against the Miami Heat.

Furkan rewarded Rivers’ trust in him with 18 points off of the bench. Korkmaz shot 7/12 from the field and 4/7 from deep, showing off that multi-level scoring that earned him his new contract this offseason. Kork showed off his range and his ability on the bench and contributed to the Sixers winning the rebounding battle. Furk contributed six rebounds on top of his efficient scoring.

These two, combined with Maxey’s brilliant 28 point performance, were able to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a victory but still wouldn’t have been able to win without the contributions made from players who needed to step into the starting lineup. Georges “Minivan” Niang stepped into the starting lineup and contributed 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists while draining three triples on the game. The other addition from the Harden trade, Paul Millsap, stepped into the starting lineup as well and while he didn’t light up the scoreboard in any particular way, his contributions helped open the court up for Tyrese, Shake, and Furkan to lead the Sixers in scoring.

Thanks only to the 76ers bench, this team beat the East-leading Miami Heat. Shake has returned to form and hopefully uses this game to get his confidence levels up. Hopefully, the same happens with Furkan Korkmaz. Niang has proved that he can be a starter for us when needed. The Philadelphia 76ers have now shown what their bench can do when they’re at their best, and hopefully, they’ll keep the momentum going against the Lakers tonight.