Suiting up and playing only 15 minutes after he received the news of Nikola Jokic winning the MVP award, Joel Embiid played like a man on a mission in Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks.
The 7-foot center went off for a 40-point, 13-rebound double-double as he became the first 76ers since Allen Iverson in 2003 to score at least 40 in the postseason. In 35 minutes of play, he also recorded two assists and two steals while shooting 13-of-25 from the field and 12-of-16 from the free-throw line.
"He was that magnificent, dominant force early on," 76ers head coach Rivers said postgame, comparing Embiid's play to Hakeem Olajuwon's in 1995 against the San Antonio Spurs when David Robinson was named league MVP.
"But it was absolutely a team effort. He set the tone for us and that's what he has to do obviously."
Rivers nailed it, as even with Embiid's play, the 76ers trailed 80-79 with 2:41 remaining left in the third quarter. Embiid had 29 at that point but the ensuing 30-9 run over the next eight minutes was sparked by the Philadelphia bench, Shake Milton to be specific.
With the reserves responsible for 26 points in that run, it was Milton who caught fire as he scored all of his 14 points for the game during that momentum-changing run.
Shake Milton beats the 3Q buzzer 🔥- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 9, 2021
We've got a good one in Philly pic.twitter.com/1pKzs9acEn
Coming into Game 2, Milton only played 38 seconds in Game 1 against and only averaged 9.5 minutes in the first round against the Washington Wizards. However, in this one, his impact was undeniable as his plus-minus of +15 was a game-high and even better than Embiid's +14.
Shake Milton tonight:- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 9, 2021
He was +15 in 14 minutes, the 2nd highest +/- under 15 minutes by a Sixer in a playoff game since 1997. pic.twitter.com/8bBpgr8QVI
"I thought the second unit was struggling. We had zero points at halftime," Doc Rivers said postgame when asked why he inserted Milton in the game in the second half. "I talked to Shake today, I said this is a long run man, if we do this right then everyone is going to get a shot."
"Shake came back last night, played 1-on-1 at 10 o'clock at night. He shot extra. He prepared himself and he believed that he would get another shot and he got it. He gave us a huge lift, so I'm very happy for him personally."
Despite Embiid's big game and Milton's outburst late, this win only helps the 76ers tie up the series. As things shift to Atlanta for the next two games, with Game 3 scheduled for Friday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET, Philadelphia will look to re-take their home-court advantage.
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