They coughed up another double-digit fourth-quarter lead to a team they should have been beating with ease. A loss to the San Antonio Spurs would have made them 0-2 at the Walt Disney World “bubble” and left them with a very bad taste in their mouths.
But trailing by two with the clock winding down, new starting point guard Shake Milton had as good a bounce-back moment he could have possibly had.
“He wasn’t guarded. They threw him the ball and he didn’t think, he just shot it,” head coach Brett Brown said postgame. “Shake … it’s quite clear — articulate, intelligent young man. And the poise and grace that he goes about his business with, I think was reflected in that moment. He just was very calm and took a lot of belief in himself and ended up with maybe one of the biggest shots of his career.”
And arguably, the biggest shot of the Sixers season to date.
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“This is all about confidence and keeping yourself upright and knowing who you are, and tonight he was able to really establish that and make big shots for us, so that was key,” Harris added.
Milton’s heroics put a bandage on a rough night for Ben Simmons, who fouled out and hasn’t been his dominant self defensively since the Orlando restart, as well as San Antoni’s 43-point fourth quarter. On Saturday, the Pacers scored 46 in the final period to come back and beat the Sixers 127-121.
Brown prides his team on its defense. After another alarming showing on that end Monday, the head coach didn’t mince words during his postgame Zoom call.
“It stinks,” Brown said. “It’s not anything we are or believe in or talk about. We were very lucky to win tonight. … The good news: It is well within our reach immediately to flip the switch. We have to have an immediate paradigm shift and an admittance that we can’t afford to pick and chose. … In general, it ain’t gonna get it done. It’s not who we are and it needs to be fixed, and fixed it will be.”
While the Sixers were lucky to win Monday, they did so technically at a “home” contest, even though the game was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.