The Philadelphia 76ers were in need of some help in their shorthanded matchup with the Timberwolves. The lengthy list of injuries continues to grow with Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, and Tobias Harris each missing the game. This caused the Sixers to roll out their eighth new starting lineup so far this season in search of victory. The five-man unit of Embiid, P.J. Tucker, Danuel Hosue Jr, Shake Milton, and De’Anthony Melton took the court for the starting tip. While the Sixers did not get the victory, this five-man unit was on pace to outscore Minnesota by 2.4 points per 100 possessions during the 16:36 game minutes they played together.
Following the 112-109 loss, it was Milton who was given a great deal of praise postgame. Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Rusell was quick to praise the Sixers’ former Sixth Man following the game. He was impressed by the backcourt of Melton and Milton stepping up and stated, “They were good. They came in and took advantage of what was going on. A lot of guys are in and out and not available tonight so I think they did a helluva job.,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.
Milton’s Continued Strong Play
After not getting any on-court opportunities in four of the Sixers’ first five games of the season, Milton has seen his role expanded of late. The backcourt matchup against Russell proved to be the SMU product’s best game of the season thus far. In his 38 minutes of play, Milton finished with 27 points, six rebounds, and two assists. While the six turnovers were a point of weakness, he shot an efficient 10-15 from the field and 3-5 behind the three-point arc.
This comes on the heels of another strong performance against the Bucks. Milton saw 31 minutes of play in the game and produced 15 points, six assists, and three rebounds. He was essential to filling in following Maxey’s injury in the matchup and the Sixers will need to lean on him heavily as the young Sixers guard remains in a boot.
Russell also acknowledged this following last night’s matchup and stated, “It’s what NBA is about though. Next guy, rotation, next guy step up, confidence and things like that. Doc’s (Rivers) a coach that plays off that. So, it’s good for them,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire. Russell ended with 19 points of his own in the matchup.
Are Milton and Melton Enough?
While both starting guards have stepped up thus far, there is still concern about the lack of depth on the roster due to injuries. The lack of guard play on the Sixers was a concern coming into the season and injuries to Maxey and Harden have further exposed this.
Furkan Korkmaz has looked capable as a ball-handler in brief stretches but has also missed the past two games with knee effusion. Former first-round pick Jaden Springer also has been inactive due to a quad injury which he is expected to be re-evaluated for in less than a week. Matisse Thybulle has shown some improvement with his ball handling but is battling an injury and was held to just four minutes of play against the Timberwolves as Rivers did not like the way he was able to move on the court.
The Sixers elected to keep an open roster spot and just over $5 million in cap space to have flexibility coming into the season. This seems like the type of situation that would call for action as neither Maxey nor Harden is expected back in the next few weeks. Philadelphia could have had its issues further seen as Embiid suffered an ankle injury in the shorthanded loss. His status will be one to monitor moving forward, but the Sixers cannot afford any other players missing time-especially their superstar.