4 great (and not-so-great) things from the Bucks' 130-125 loss to the 76ers
Fiserv Forum hosted another playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday as the Bucks took on the Philadelphia 76ers in an Eastern Conference showdown.
Although the Bucks still hold on to the top spot in the East with a 52-18 record and a three-game lead over the Toronto Raptors, Sunday afternoon's game was a reminder that the 76ers are perhaps the Bucks' biggest threat come April and May. The Bucks kept things interesting until the final seconds, but the Greek Freak's impressive stat line wasn't enough for a comeback victory.
Here are four great (as well as four not-so-great) things from the Bucks' home loss to the Sixers:
1. Giannis' MVP performance
Giannis was unreal yesterday. With 52 points (15 of 26), the Greek Freak also had 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block with only a single turnover. While MVP chants echoed through the energetic crowd, Giannis added yet another MVP performance to his belt.
What was most impressive from Giannis' afternoon was his 19 free throws, missing only two in the process. Coming into Sunday, Antetokounmpo is shooting 72 percent from the charity stripe, so over 90 percent for the game is something to celebrate.
2. Limiting Ben Simmons
The Sixers' starting five is stacked with all-stars, so when you can hold anyone of them to just eight points, it's a definite advantage. Despite a relatively low number of attempts, the Bucks' were able to limit the 76ers' young superstar guard to single digits.
Unfortunately, though, two players on Philadelphia's roster helped pick up the slack for Simmons (who isn't necessarily known for his scoring) as Joel Embiid and Marquette alum Jimmy Butler combined for 67 points in the game.
3. Eric Bledsoe's hops
With 32 seconds left in the third quarter, a tie-up between the seven-foot Embiid and 6'1" Bledsoe led to a jump ball between the two. Although many predicted an automatic win for Embiid, Bledsoe put his hops on display and gained possession for Milwaukee.
The David versus Goliath jump ball built a ton of momentum for the Bucks, and if the game would have went the other way for Milwaukee, fans would have pointed to the jump ball as the game-changing moment.
4. Never giving up
From the second quarter to the last few minutes of the game, the 76ers took their lead to double digits on several occasions and took the air out of the sold-out arena. But just as it looked like Philadelphia was going to run away with the W, Giannis and company fought back to make things interesting.
The Bucks didn't lose Sunday's contest, rather they just ran out of time. While any loss stings, the Bucks demonstrated a lot of fight by keeping things competitive until the final seconds.
1. Embiid's 40 points
While it's no 52, superstar big man Joel Embiid's 40-point performance was equally impressive. Embiid took control of the game in the fourth quarter and really put in the final dagger with a huge three-pointer to extend the game to 123-116 with just 35.6 seconds left.
The silver lining is that you can't expect Embiid to always put up 40 points against Milwaukee – but then again you can't always expect Giannis to have 52 of his own either. Should these teams meet in the playoffs, it may come down to which superstar outperforms the other.
2. JJ Redick and Tobias Harris seeking revenge
Former Bucks JJ Redick and Tobias Harris combined for 31 points against their former team. Harris, who is at the peak of his career, was recently moved to the Sixers in a trade looked at as one of the best deadline moves of the year.
Ironically, Harris spent his first couple years with the Bucks before he was traded to Orlando. And for who? None other than JJ Redick. Redick played less than a season with Milwaukee before signing a deal with the Clippers, and both players were just shells of themselves compared to the present day.
Neither appear to have bad blood with Milwaukee, but playing your former team can always lead to an added spark. They may go unnoticed in the shadows of Embiid, Simmons and Butler but stopping these former Bucks may be key in the playoffs.
3. Fan interaction
The spotlight's shined on player-fan interactions this month after an incident between Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and a (now banned) Utah Jazz fan. And while the incident didn't escalate to "Malice at the Palace" levels, all eyes were on a fan and Ben Simmons at the end of Sunday's game. Simmons dismissed the interaction when talking to reporters after the game but was visibly upset at a fan sitting courtside, with an official even getting in-between the two. We hope nothing out-of-line was said – and we hope we can all agree that purchasing courtside seats isn't a ticket to harass players, home or away.
4. Second round opponents?
Win or lose, what's scary about Sunday's matchup is that the Bucks could land the #1 seed, and depending on how the Sixers finish the regular season, the Bucks could host Philadelphia in just the second round.
Milwaukee has proven that it's the real deal this season, but the playoffs won't be any cakewalk. When factoring star power alone, the 76ers' starting five is the best in the East, and they could be the Bucks' biggest threat in the playoffs – and it may not even be in the Conference Finals.
No matter when they battle in the playoffs, however, the two teams seem ready for a series for the ages.
Soooo Giannis dunks hard on Ben Simmons, calls him a "baby," then 10 seconds later Ben comes up with the put-back slam right over Giannis' head. Sixers win and I'll take a seven-game playoff series between these two teams please. pic.twitter.com/yHqTxNst3m— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 17, 2019
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