Doc Rivers wasn't thrilled with his bench unit's play in the first half of the Game 2 matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. And why would he be? After the Sixers' starting unit got off to a hot start, outscoring the Hawks 18-4 before making their first substitution, the bench unit's struggles killed Philly's momentum.
What felt like a potential blowout win early on turned out to be a two-point game when the second half rolled around. As the Sixers led the Hawks 57-55, the starting unit accounted for every single point, as the five-man reserve rotation clocked a minus-40 while on the floor, failing to collect a single basket.
Rivers, who tends to put a lot of trust in his team's second unit, wasn't accepting that type of performance. Typically, coaches would avoid putting in the struggling reserves as much as possible. Not Rivers. Instead, the Sixers head coach ripped into his reserves at halftime, according to the veteran guard George Hill. Then, Rivers went even deeper in his rotation, implementing an eleventh man in the second half.
"That's what good coaches do," Hill said on Thursday after practice. "They come in, and sometimes you have to rip the guys a-- to play well. I think he ripped all of our behinds at half, and it wasn't pretty. Hearing the truth is what you need. Sometimes it hurts to hear the truth, but you need it. I think our second unit responded well to that."
While Philly's bench didn't give the Sixers a significant boost overall, Rivers' idea to gamble on utilizing an eleventh man paid off big time. Shake Milton, who checked in for just 38 seconds in Game 1, acquired nearly three minutes late in the third quarter. During that time, he knocked down two threes for six points.
At that point, it was clear Milton stayed ready and embraced Rivers' halftime challenge. Therefore, he played all but 30 seconds in the final quarter, collecting eight points off six shots, totaling for 14 points in the second half.
"Shake's been a positive for our second unit all year," Hill explained. "I think he's a guy who's going to continue to stay ready, and when Coach calls his name, he's going to go in there do what he does best, and that's score the ball."
Milton stepped up to the challenge in the second half of Game 2 as the Sixers defeated the Hawks and evened the series 1-1. Now, it's up to the rest of the unit to step up help contribute in Game 3 as the Hawks host the Sixers for the first time this series on Friday night.