Three Normal Playoff Things: Sixers vs. Hawks Game Two
Three normal things.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Hello and welcome to Three Normal Playoff Things! Let’s begin, shall we?
#1: Depth becoming an issue
The Sixers are a long ways away from the old days of bench incompetence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their bench is good enough. Exhibit A: tonight’s first half, in which the Sixers bench did not score a single point. Exhibit B: the Hawks had two players -- Danillo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter -- who scored 15 first-half points off the bench.
Against a very deep Hawks team, the Sixers need meaningful contributions from at least a couple of bench players.
This series seems like a poor fit for Dwight Howard, who can only play when Embiid is off the floor anyways. Furkan Korkmaz probably isn’t good enough to have a real impact on a series at this point. That leaves Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton and George Hill as the three prime candidates to emerge. Tonight, it was just Shake, who gave the Sixers his best minutes in quite a while — more on that in just a bit.
Doc Rivers can try as much rotational gymnastics as he’d like, but he’s going to need some production from his reserves in order to win this series.
#2: Joel Embiid, Greek God of the Net Rating swing
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Sixers played a playoff game, were utterly dominant when Embiid was on the floor, and got run off the floor when Embiid was on the bench.
The extent to which they struggle when Embiid is resting is startling, if not outright comical. It’s not just a team missing its star; it sometimes appears as if everyone on the team has forgotten how to play basketball for minutes at a time.
It goes without saying, but the Sixers are not going to have real championship aspirations if they can’t survive an Embiid resting period.
This team’s prior front office did Embiid no favors, and Rivers hasn’t been the perfect coach, but at some point responsibility for mollifying this issue needs to fall on the laps of the other starters. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, specifically, are too good to let this happen as much and as heavily as it has during the playoffs.
#3: The Shake Milton Game, Pt. 2
One of the biggest reasons for the aforementioned bench struggles is that Milton, who was the Sixers’ most reliable secondary creator for much of the season, had gone ice cold, to the point that he had gone from sixth man to out of the playoff rotation.
After he clearly was not pleased with Tyrese Maxey’s performance tonight, Rivers took a shot in the dark and brought Milton in late in the third quarter. Chaos ensued.
What a call it was. Milton came in and made it rain, including a 35-foot buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter. He immediately led a massive Sixers run that helped put the game out of reach.