While the NBA season is suspended, we take a look back at the most surprising moments of the Sixers’ season. In this edition, Sixers Pre and Postgame Live host Amy Fadool and Sixers reporter Noah Levick pick their moments. You can read Part 1 here.
Fadool: The Shake Milton Game
What did you really know about Shake Milton before March 1, 2020? Be honest. Did you know his real name was Malik? Do you remember him as a three-year starter at SMU under Larry Brown? Maybe, maybe not. You probably did know he was a 2018 second-round draft pick and that he played the majority of his first season in the G League. Search engines were working overtime on the night of March 1, though. If you are an avid reader of this site (and why wouldn't you be), then you would have read the extremely timely piece on Milton written by Serena Winters on February 28. How's that for foreshadowing?
On this day in Los Angeles, facing a fully healthy Clippers squad, the Sixers found themselves heavily undermanned. Joel Embiid was out with a shoulder sprain. Josh Richardson started the game but left a little over 10 minutes in after suffering a nose contusion and concussion. And Ben Simmons was out with a nerve impingement in his lower back.
Enter Milton. It was a tall task for anyone, but especially a virtual unknown who played in just 20 NBA games his rookie season and before March 1, just 27 NBA games this season. But the stars were aligned for Milton on March 1. He was a perfect 5 for 5 for 11 points in the opening quarter, including a three-pointer. He added to that with a 5-for-6 effort in the second, when he also buried all of his long-range attempts and his lone free throw for 15 points and 26 total before the half.
He was being searched for online. He was trending on Twitter. He was certainly trending in the Clippers locker room at halftime.
L.A. came out with a better defensive effort on a player they likely barely game-planned for, holding Milton to just three points in the third quarter. But think about that sentence. Just three points for a guy who had played less than 50 games in his two-year NBA career. Milton heated back up in the final quarter with 10 points, including two more threes.
The Sixers dropped a close one to the Clippers, so there was no joy in Mudville on this night. However, mighty Casey had not struck out. Milton came out swinging during his at-bat and hit a home run. His final stat line read: 40 minutes (career high), 39 points (career high), 20 shots attempted (career high), 14 shots made (career high), seven three-pointers made (career high), five assists (one off his career high).
And thus, the Shake Milton Game was born.
Levick: Furkan’s weekend
Furkan Korkmaz owned the second weekend of February.
In wins over the Grizzlies and Bulls at Wells Fargo Center, he totaled 65 points and shot 25 of 34 from the floor (13 of 20 from three-point range). He pump faked opponents into oblivion, crashed the offensive boards, tossed alley-oops, took charges and threw down dunks. His teammates loved all of it.
THE MAN HAS BEEN UNKORKED AND THE BENCH HAS LOST IT'S MIND OVER IT. pic.twitter.com/mWGCUNFJId— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 10, 2020
Knowing the Sixers would be in need of three-point shooting this season, Brett Brown was inclined to give Korkmaz opportunities early. He wanted to “grow a bomber,” he said, and thought Korkmaz could fill the role after a summer in which the 22-year-old played well for Turkey at the FIBA World Cup and got into better physical condition.
We wondered at the time whether Brown was too fixated on Korkmaz, to the extent that he might block out other options. We also weren’t sure Korkmaz could turn the label of “shooter” into actual success from three-point range at the NBA level. Heading into the season, he’d made 32.3 percent of his threes in 62 NBA games.
After having his third-year option declined by the Sixers last season and not re-signing until July 24, Korkmaz has made a team-high 126 threes this year (39.7 percent percent).
Whatever your feelings are about the role Korkmaz should have on the Sixers, it seemed everyone got a kick out of his performances that weekend. Korkmaz sure did, playing with a swagger and a smile.
“It's a heck of a story, isn't it?,” Brown said.
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