Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton left it all on the court

And just like that, the season was over.

After fighting back from a 2-0 deficit down Joel Embiid to even things up heading into Game 5, the Philadelphia 76ers turned in two absolute duds to quietly end a season that will forever be defined by “what ifs.”

What if Danny Green never hurt his knee? What if Embiid never hurt his finger/face? What if James Harden played like James Harden? What if Ben Simmons played at all?

Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to those questions. Pascal Siakam’s errant swing will rank up there with Kawhi Leonard’s quadruple doink and Simmons’ non-dunk, and now, folks like yours truly will have to wonder how the team can pick up the pieces and go from there.

One player, however, who can head into the postseason with his head held high is Shake Milton, as the fourth-year guard out of SMU left it all on the court in the Philadelphia 76ers’ season finale.

The Philadelphia 76ers have to be proud of Shake Milton in Game 6.

Heading into the third quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers needed a spark. Down just one point, it was clear the tenor of the game would be defined in the first 12 minutes of the second half, with Philly either capturing the momentum with the crowd to their backs or falling into an insurmountable hole against a much better team.

Unfortunately, after being outscored 19-4 during the first 7:30 of the third, it was clear which team came to play and which team took one too many punches to come up off the mat.

And yet, at the 4:10 mark of the third, something magical happened. With James Harden unwilling to shoot, Tyrese Maxey playing tentatively, and Joel Embiid still not playing at 100 percent, Shake Milton put two quick points on the board off of an Embiid rebound and closed out the quarter with the rest of the team’s points from the field.

With Green gone and Thybulle inexplicably benched following an impactful second quarter, Milton played the final 12 minutes of action and put up a team-leading eight points, including a 3 at the one-minute mark that helped to make the loss appear closer than it really was. He kept the ball moving, the effort level up, and, unlike some of his teammates, left it all on the court in a way only Maxey was able to match.

If this is, in fact, the end of this particular era of Sixers basketball, be that because Doc Rivers is fired, Tobias Harris is traded, or the bench gets completely overhauled, at least Milton positioned himself as well as he could for the future after an incredibly inconsistent season.

The 2021-22 NBA season wasn’t a marquee run for Shake Milton. He was in and out of the lineup, including for a month-long stretch with a back injury, and watched as his statistics failed to live up to the high water marks set in seasons prior. And yet, when the Philadelphia 76ers needed him most, Milton gave the team everything he had and scored his most points since the regular season finale.  That’s how I’d like to remember the final game of this otherwise labored season, for the players who tried, not the ones who didn’t.