Shake Milton puts on a show, Josh Richardson leaves with injury as Sixers fall to Clippers

Shake Milton puts on a show, Josh Richardson leaves with injury as Sixers fall to Clippers

BOX SCORE 

Shake Milton tied an NBA record for consecutive made threes Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, reaching 13 threes in a row across the past three games. That was, without question, the most extraordinary part of the Sixers’ game against the Clippers.

The fact that the Sixers lost to the Clippers, 136-130, without Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) and Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) was much less surprising.

The defeat is the Sixers’ eighth straight on the road and drops the team to 37-24. Next up are the Lakers on Tuesday night.

Here are observations on the loss: 

The Shake Milton Show 

The Sixers couldn’t have started much better offensively, hitting 11 of their first 14 shots and taking a 25-11 lead. They hit 7 of 11 threes in the first quarter and had six assists and no turnovers. 

Josh Richardson picked up where he left off in the second half Thursday, knocking down his first three mid-range jumpers and, late in the period, a right wing three. Tobias Harris was sharp, too, and scored 13 points in the first on 5 of 8 shooting. 

Milton stood out, showing off a versatile, confident game. He hit a pull-up off a smooth crossover, accelerated into a lefty layup and sunk a short fallaway jumper over Ivica Zubac. Then, just to hammer home the point that he is indeed a legitimate NBA-caliber player, the 2018 second-round pick unearthed a steal and slammed it in on Patrick Beverley with his left hand. 

After a Clippers timeout, he converted a three. He wasn’t done, sinking three more in the second period and finishing the first half with 26 points on 10 of 11 shooting. His three-point streak finally ended with a third-quarter miss from the left corner. 

Though he couldn’t quite sustain the absurd highs of the first half, Milton finished with a career-high 39. 

We knew Milton was a good outside shooter, a poised player regardless of the circumstances and a star in the G League, but the burst, decisiveness and audacity on display Sunday were all highly impressive.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brett Brown said last Tuesday. “Somebody will step up.”

Milton certainly has. 

Yet another injury

Richardson collided with Alec Burks and stayed down on the floor with 11:17 left in the second quarter. It appeared that, as Burks was leaning backwards after a driving layup attempt, the back of his head bumped into Richardson’s face. As he went to the locker room, Richardson had a towel pressed against his nose. 

He was ruled out of the game late in the second quarter with a nose contusion. Richardson was also later diagnosed with a concussion

The injury left the Sixers with just two of their original starters this season in Harris and Al Horford. 

The burden on Harris and Horford 

Harris, outside of his hot start, wasn’t great (25 points on 11 of 21 shooting, four rebounds, four assists). Horford (12 points on 4 of 11 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists) wasn’t either.

That’s not to imply those two were terrible. Harris was a big reason why the Sixers took their early lead, and came out with an aggressive mentality. Horford, who fouled out with 4:25 left, didn’t give the Sixers enough as a rim protector or scorer, though he had his second straight good game as a passer. That remains perhaps his best skill. 

It’s just that, given the current injury situation, the Sixers would have needed both Harris and Horford to be tremendous — on a normal night. Given Milton’s star turn, it probably would have been sufficient if one of the two had a huge game. Neither did. 

Rotation juggling 

Brown initially played Kyle O’Quinn at backup center over Norvel Pelle for the second straight game. With Horford getting into first-half foul trouble, the team preferred using Mike Scott as a small-ball center over extending O’Quinn’s minutes.

Scott held his own in that role, conceding some ground defensively against Montrezl Harrell but also scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds. Pelle and Scott split the backup five minutes in the second half.

Glenn Robinson III started the game, but Brown used Scott to begin the third quarter. Matisse Thybulle also opened the third, replacing Richardson. 

Robinson didn’t have much of an impact. His three-point shooting, the skill that was most appealing to the Sixers, has yet to translate to Philadelphia — he’s now 0 for 10 from three since the trade. With Golden State, Robinson was a 40 percent three-point shooter. 

Defensive vulnerabilities 

Missing three of their best defensive players in Embiid, Simmons and Richardson (for most of the game), the Sixers predictably had trouble stopping the Clippers, who shot 59.2 percent and got 20 or more points from Lou Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harrell. 

There weren’t any issues with effort — as there have been during plenty of other road games this season — just a lack of healthy bodies. 

Every button Brown pushed in the first half seemed to work but the Clippers were, on paper, the superior team. They showed it in the third, outscoring the Sixers by 14 and dimming hope that a shorthanded, Shake Milton-led team could begin its four-game West Coast road trip with an improbable win. 

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Sixers injury update: Josh Richardson (nose contusion) exits game vs. Clippers

Sixers injury update: Josh Richardson (nose contusion) exits game vs. Clippers

Updated: 6:23 p.m.

Already dealing with injuries to All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers saw another starter go down Sunday.

Josh Richardson was forced to leave the game against the Clippers with a nose contusion, per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters. He did not return.

With 11:17 to go in the second quarter, Richardson collided with teammate Alec Burks as a shot hung on the rim. Richardson sat on the baseline and appeared to be bleeding from his nose.

He was diagnosed with a concussion, per Winters.

With Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) and Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) already out, Richardson is a player the Sixers really needed to step up. He’d done so early in this one, scoring nine points (4 of 6) in just 10 minutes.

The 26-year-old has missed 14 games in his first season with the Sixers with hamstring issues in both legs.

Shake Milton carried the load, recording a career-high 39 points and tying an NBA record, but the Sixers ultimately fell to the Clippers (see observations).

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Sixers at Clippers: 3 storylines to watch

Sixers at Clippers: 3 storylines to watch

The Sixers are 28-2 at Wells Fargo Center and have only had a better home record through 30 games once in franchise history.

That’s good … but they won’t play at home again until March 11.

Here are three storylines to watch for the team’s game Sunday afternoon against the 40-19 Clippers, the first of a four-game trip on the West Coast: 

The All-Stars won’t be in town 

Neither Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) nor Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) will be with the team in Los Angeles.

Those two starred and played very well together when the Sixers beat the Clippers on Feb. 11, scoring 26 points apiece. 

This will be the most difficult competition the Sixers have played without both Simmons and Embiid since the start of the 2017-18 season — Thursday’s win over the Knicks and a victory in the regular-season finale over the Bulls last year are the only two other games they've been in this situation. 

No ‘home-court cooking’ 

After losing to the Sixers in February, Paul George told reporters, “There was some home-court cooking tonight, to say the least,” and was fined $35,000 for public criticism of the officials.

George shot 3 for 15 in that loss and was defended well by Josh Richardson.

Through 60 games, the Sixers have conceded 4.9 more free throw attempts per game on the road than at home. Of course, it’s difficult to know how much of that disparity — if any — can be attributed to “home-court cooking.” It’s one of many areas in which the team has been much worse on the road, where they’re 9-21. 

Plenty of questions 

With no Simmons, how will the Sixers guard opposing stars like Kawhi Leonard? Can Shake Milton, who’s made 9 of his last 11 threes, keep up his high level of play as the team's starting point guard? We saw Tobias Harris (34 points, seven assists, seven rebounds) and Al Horford (15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) carry a larger load in the Sixers’ win over the Knicks, but can they do that successfully against better competition?

These aren't pleasant questions the Sixers have to address, but we should start to get some answers on Sunday. 

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