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Bucks v. Sixers Preview: Clash of Eastern Conference Contenders

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Weekend matinees forever

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to celebrate the meeting of two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams in a late-season Sunday matinee. The Milwaukee Bucks enter having completing an unbelievable comeback against the Miami Heat, and the Sixers arrive, um, wearing blue jerseys.

Bucks Update

If you were still waiting for the Bucks to add a signature win to their resume, I think you may have gotten it via Friday night’s 113-98 win over Miami. Per my colleague Andrew Goodman, that victory was the only time in franchise history Milwaukee was able to surmount a 20-point halftime deficit. Wow. And they were able to do it with a rotation in flux as George Hill returned from injury, Donte DiVincenzo’s heel bursitis flared, and Malcolm Brogdon dealt with plantar fasciitis.

Brogdon’s injury may prove to be critical to the season, and the only real remedy is to lay off of straining the affected foot. The Bucks still have a few weeks left before playoff basketball begins, but this isn’t an ailment with a set timetable. An even greater test of Milwaukee’s depth and ability to adjust on the fly awaits.

We’re back to a longer injury report with Brogdon and Sterling Brown (wrist) out, Donte DiVincenzo (heel) questionable, and Pat Connaughton listed as probable (ankle).

Player to Watch: Brook Lopez

Lopez has been quiet over the last three, though his mere presence continues to lend significant stretch to Milwaukee’s attack. He’ll need more than “simply existing” against Joel Embiid, though. In the only previous meeting between these teams Lopez’s 5-11 night from distance made Embiid pay for not closing out, and eventually opened up the paint for Milwaukee’s army of interior scorers. Can Brook replicate that performance?

Sixers Update

Just a year ago the Sixers were a team on the come-up with two young stars and a robust supporting cast, not to mention cap space, draft pieces, and whatever Markelle Fultz could turn into.

Philadelphia’s budding future now seems murkier.

Start with the core four: Ben Simmons, the guy who everyone reads “Giannis-lite” into, yet will never reach the heights Antetokounmpo inhabits thanks to an overriding fear of anything that’s not turning the ball over and standing dumbfounded in open space. Joel Embiid, his partner in crime, is an unquestioned talent that’s a tweak away from having a season derailed. There’s Tobias Harris (former Buck!), a player who can score like the Dickens, but has been deemed expendable by Orlando, Detroit, and the Clippers. And here comes my mans Jimmy Butler — Mount Vesuvius personified. He wants his touches, he wants his money, and he’s eager to erupt and decimate team chemistry.

Around those four are a bench comprised of... TJ McConnell doing his best Delly impression, Boban Marjanovic being tall, and whatever Mike Scott is known for doing. I’m sure GM Elton Brand will deftly use that remaining Sacramento 2034 second-rounder left from the Hinkie regime to push this team over the top. “Trust the Process” indeed...

...they’ve also won three straight, occupy the East’s three seed, and Embiid/Simmons are still an intriguing duo. Furkan Korkmaz is out with a torn meniscus.

Player to Watch: Tobias Harris

To coach Brett Brown’s credit, Harris has quickly integrated on offense without seeing huge dips in production. There’s been a slight dip in overall scoring, but the shot selection is smarter and the percentages improved. Can the Bucks keep him contained and dare Philly’s other three stars to beat Milwaukee on their own?

Poll

Game 70: Against the 76ers the Bucks will

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
    (31 votes)
  • 43%
    Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (68 votes)
  • 22%
    Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (36 votes)
  • 14%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
    (23 votes)
158 votes total Vote Now