The Bucks finally returned to their frisky ways on Monday night, cruising to a 127-114 victory over the Houston Rockets in one of their most impressive offensive performances of the year. They’ll take on the Philadelphia 76ers, a squad that dispatched them last week behind the might of Joel Embiid 113-104, however Philly will be without Embiid tonight after suffering a left knee contusion late last week.
Milwaukee’s return to form versus Houston couldn’t have come at a more desperate time, with the team in a free fall, five-game losing streak. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and four blocks, while Jabari Parker posted a complete 28 point, eight rebound, seven assist, three steal night in his most aggressive performance for some time. They were aided by a bench that finally reappeared, with particularly strong performances from Matthew Dellavedova (16 points, seven assists) and Greg Monroe (17 points, 10 rebounds).
Milwaukee played its third-fastest paced game of the season against Houston, with both team firing away and the Bucks feasting off poor passing from James Harden all night, forcing him into 11 turnovers and 22 overall for the Rockets. They forced merely 30 turnovers combined over the previous three games, so the opportunity to get out on the break for easy buckets helped Milwaukee avoid its sluggish halfcourt offense of late.
A similar effort is necessary tonight, as the last Sixers game featured enough Bucks laying eggs they could fill an entire carton. Giannis and Jabari struggled mightily against Joel Embiid’s interior presence, and while he’s out tonight, Nerlens Noel will make his first appearance against Milwaukee this year and provide a steadying defensive presence. Miles Plumlee rim-rolling provided extra spacing for Milwaukee against the Rockets, and the Bucks will hope he can provide the same benefit tonight after only playing a minute of mop-up duty against Philadelphia.
Even with Philadelphia on a roll of late, a loss to the Sixers without their best player, at home no less, would be a distressing step back for a team whose excited expressions after Monday’s win felt like a much needed sigh of relief for a team that needed one.
Amazingly, the loss of Joel Embiid and absence of Jahlil Okafor didn’t stop Philadelphia from defeating the Los Angeles Clippers last night, 121-110, in Blake Griffin’s first game back after missing 18 games with a knee injury. The Sixers were down by as much as 19 in the third quarter before outscoring the Clippers by 30 to finish out the contest. Chris Paul remained out for Los Angeles, but the Sixers’ resiliency stemmed from a balanced attack.
Nerlens Noel led with 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks, with backup center Richaun Holmes chipping in 18 points and Dario Saric adding 16 points and eight rebounds. Philadelphia went a pedestrian 10-29 (34.5%) from behind the arc, but they restrained themselves to just six turnovers on the night. That may be one small benefit of not having Embiid on the floor, who continues to sport a rather high 17.9 turnover percentage.
However, the Bucks have to hope that was a fluke rather than the norm, as they forced 19 Sixers turnovers last game. Milwaukee gave up plenty of open looks to Sixers three point shooters with sloppy rotations and an inability to run Philadelphia off the three-point line, as the Sixers got off 37 attempts the last time they played. Some of those may’ve been ill-advised, but I’m sure Ersan Ilyasova is itching to atone for that 2-7 performance the last time he was in Milwaukee.
Philadelphia is now 7-3 over their last 10 games, a stretch where they’ve posted the league’s second stingiest defensive rating at 100.4, behind only the Golden State Warriors at 100.0. Unfortunately, their offensive rating remains at a league worst 100.3 over that time, but they’ve found ways to pull out victories and leave the Nets alone in the deepest recesses of the league’s standings. The Sixers are confident, just beat a Clippers team without Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor on the floor, and won against Milwaukee a little over a week ago. They’ll have every belief they can win this one too.
Joel Embiid is out for the Sixers with a left knee contusion, and Jahlil Okafor was a late scratch with right knee soreness against the Clippers and it’s uncertain whether he’ll play against Milwaukee.