In a season where he was expected to be the team's most reliable player coming off the bench, Sixers guard Shake Milton has seen his fair share of ups and downs towards the final stretch of the season.
By the time the first round of the NBA Playoffs rolled around, Milton's minutes had started to diminish. As he averaged 11 minutes on the floor in the first three games of the first-round series against the Washington Wizards, Milton struggled mightily as he shot 16-percent from the field, averaging just three points per game.
In the final two games of the Washington series, Milton played roughly 13 total minutes between those two matchups. While it seemed Milton's spot in the playoff rotation was gone for good, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers made it clear he's not giving up on the third-year guard.
At first, his words seemed like a bluff. Despite saying Milton's spot in the rotation still exists, Rivers had the young guard check-in for just 38 seconds in Game 1 of the second round against the Atlanta Hawks.
In Game 2, that number increased to 14 minutes and 15 seconds, and Milton earned every second of it. As Philly's bench struggled throughout the entire first half, Milton seemed like Rivers' last resort. Despite the recent struggles, Milton wasn't down on himself. He remained ready, checked into Tuesday's game, and created a significant impact, helping the 76ers overcome Atlanta to even the series 1-1.
Following the game, Philly's standout starter Tobias Harris offered Milton tons of credit. As he's witnessed all of the work Milton put in behind the scenes amid his struggles, Harris was thrilled to see it all come together on the floor in a game setting.
“I’m extremely happy for him," Harris said. "I think it really shows what the playoffs are about. Every game is important, so you never know who’s gonna be able to step up, but when you have great efforts from guys who step up and are out there making plays like he was making, it just further pushes us along.”
After registering zero minutes in the first half, Milton checked in for two minutes in the third quarter. Although he wasn't on the floor for a long time, his two buckets from beyond the arc forced Rivers to keep the hot hand on the court.
For 11 minutes in the final quarter, Milton remained efficient. Knocking down three of his next six shot attempts, the reserve guard collected another eight points down the stretch. When he came off the floor, he left the game with 14 points.
“Obviously, he’s been in and out of the rotation in the playoffs,” Harris noted. “He was struggling a little bit at times, but he’s steadily in the gym and waiting for that moment and opportunity, and he came in and took advantage of it. We needed it more than ever too. That was great to see.”