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Bucks vs. 76ers Preview: Giannis and Embiid Square Off

The Sixers and Bucks match up for the first time this season

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

After a close game that Milwaukee never quite found their way back into at Atlanta, their 111-98 loss places them sixth in the Eastern Conference, tied with Washington and Indiana at a 20-19 record. They’ll face Philadelphia for the first time today, who are coming off a Saturday night 109-93 loss against Washington.

Bucks Update

Despite closing the gap at several points, the Bucks were firmly handled by the Atlanta Hawks yesterday. Giannis Antetokounmpo made more than his fair share of plays to get shots at the rim, but no other Buck was able to assert themselves consistently against a well-organized Atlanta squad.

Giannis’ line, 33 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks, was a fine indicator that he’s back in high spirits from his illness. Jabari posted a near triple-double with eight points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but shot merely nine times all game.

For the second game in a row, Mirza Teletovic failed to record a minute of game time. Once again, Milwaukee shot below 20 three-pointers as a team. Despite Milwaukee’s continued efficiency in the paint, their recent lack of three-point shooting is a trend running counter to their early season discussion about launching from deep more often.

Philadelphia’s rangy frontcourt aligns with Milwaukee’s strengths, so Malcolm Brogdon may have to attack the piddly backcourt of T.J. McConnell and Gerald Henderson to attack Milwaukee’s most acute mismatch.

Everyone should be available for Milwaukee today, including Rashad Vaughn, who battled an ankle issue for some time but got seven minutes of game action against Atlanta.

76ers Update

Much like it does here in Milwaukee, any conversation about the Philadelphia 76ers starts with superstar-in-waiting Joel Embiid. His debut NBA season is proceeding at a pace that is a pleasant surprise to even his most optimistic zealots. His per-36 numbers of 28 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 3.3 blocks are remarkable, granted that also includes 5.2 turnovers owing to his 17.7 turnover percentage on nearly 36% usage. Given he’s still on a minutes restriction, Embiid is taking every opportunity he’s in the game to make up for any missed shots the prior two seasons. Milwaukee’s bigs will have to respect his perimeter game as well, he’s averaging 3.1 three-point attempts per game, nailing 34.5% of them.

Beyond Embiid, the Sixers roster strength is focused primarily in the frontcourt, with bouncy, offensively challenged and occasional grouser Nerlens Noel, defensively challenged and post aficionado Jahlil Okafor, and finally the crafty Croation Dario Saric who can shoot from three and occasionally facilitate the offense.

The Sixers shoot the seventh most threes per game in the league, but that hasn’t lubricated their offensive efficiency. They’re dead last in the league at 98.5, so Milwaukee’s recent swoon in defensive efficiency (down to 15th per should get a boon from today’s game.

Despite losing to Washington last Saturday night, Philadelphia is in one of its best stretches of basketball the past few years. They’ve won five of seven games, albeit against Denver, Brooklyn, New York, Minnesota and Charlotte. Not exactly a crowning achievement, but that’s significant progress for the franchise and notable in that Milwaukee lost to several of those teams already.

In a nutshell though, this one’s pretty simple. The Sixers are +35 for the year when Joel Embiid is on the court and every other player has negative on-court ratings. When Embiid is off, they’re -273. Milwaukee needs to take advantage of the Sixers anytime their star leaves the court.

Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both expected to miss the season with their injuries.