Philadelphia 76ers: Shake bakes in an ugly Embiid-less loss

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

After logging seven straight DNPs, Shake Milton turned garbage into gold in an uber undermanned Philadelphia 76ers loss to the Denver Nuggets.

When Joel Embiid doesn’t play, the Philadelphia 76ers are 1-3.

When Jimmy Butler doesn’t play, the Philadelphia 76ers are 3-2.

When Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, AND Wilson Chandler doesn’t play, boy, things can get ugly.

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That was the case when the Sixers took their show on the road and faced off against the Denver Nuggets for a late Saturday night showdown in the Mile High City.

In a game that I personally predicted the team would lose by 50, Philly’s finest never really had a chance to take down Nikola Jokic‘s squad, even with the Nuggets’ second-best scorer, Jamal Murray, out with a left ankle sprain.

It was a tough one to watch.

With the Sixers’ entire starting frontcourt out of commission, Brett Brown had to get creative with his on-court combinations in an attempt to shut down the Nuggets’ versatile offensive assault, none of which were all that effective.

Ben Simmons received a rare start at power forward and earned one of the most underwhelming double-doubles you’ll see this season; recording 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and three turnovers in 35 minutes of action.

Frontcourt Ben also freed up Coach Brown to try some interesting backcourt combos as well, including a solid stint where Landry Shamet finally played point guard in an NBA game (!).

As you can read here, Shamet has been one of the nicest surprises of the 2018-19 season, and could one day become the perfect backcourt mate for Simmons moving forward. A knockdown 3 point shooter with the size, speed, and experience to play either guard position, Shamet’s secondary playmaking abilities could help to unlock the 76ers offense in the same way that many assumed Markelle Fultz would when he was selected first overall in the 2017 draft.

But really, no one took their expanded role and ran with it more than everyone’s favorite two-way player Shake Milton.

After logging seven straight DNPs after a string of solid games at the beginning of January, Milton earned 20 minutes of action, the seventh most on the team, and rewarded Brown’s confidence with 11 points off the bench, including 3-5 from beyond the arc.

For those keeping track at home, that’s a new career high for the Shakeman, one point more than his 10-points in eight minutes performance against the San Antonio Spurs back in December (in yet another loss).

Milton even recorded his first steal of the new year. Granted, that’s three less than Corey Brewer‘s four, his most since an April third game against the Golden State Warriors (when he was a member of the OKC Thunder), but still, every little milestone for a rookie has to be appreciated, even if it happens in a blowout-garbage time loss.

Sure, most of Milton’s minutes, both against the Nuggets and this season, have come when the game is out of hand one way or the other (the smallest margin? five points) but that’s the life of a player on a two-way contract.

In 14 games of action with the Delaware Blue Coats, Milton is averaging 24.5 points a game, to go along with 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.3 steals. While those numbers obviously aren’t tenable in the NBA, they do highlight what fans in the 215 already know: Shake Milton can play basketball.

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While he will, in all likelihood, remain on a two-way contract indefinitely, as Corey Brewer has all but locked up the Philadelphia 76ers’ 15th roster spot for the remainder of the season, if his performance against the Denver Nuggets is of any indication, Shake Milton is going to have a long and promising career.