For those unaware, Joel Embiid recently declared himself “the best player in the world,” hence the tongue-in-cheek title. A little bulletin board material never hurt Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If there’s one thing we know about Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers matchups, it’s that they rarely fail to disappoint in the drama department. While that doesn’t always mean narrow contests down the stretch, there is plenty of in-game jawing and tussling at the rim that their matchups remain one of my favorite for this Bucks team.
A ho-hum 20-point shellacking of the Detroit Pistons kicked off Milwaukee’s second half. Giannis had 33 points and finished +39 in 32 minutes, Khris was automatic from anywhere on the court en route to 28 and Eric Bledsoe chipped in 19 of his own. The Pistons fleet of ex-Bucks never stood a chance in that 126-106 contest. The most intriguing subplot for those blowout games down the stretch is likely going to be Bud’s rotation choices, primarily the Ersan-Marvin Williams slot.
After handling Philadelphia 112-101 earlier in February, another victory by the Bucks would help put the “Bucks-stoppers” narrative that followed the Sixers after Christmas Day even further in the rear view mirror.
Kyle Korver is the only Buck listed as out for this one.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Specifically, his 3-point jumper. He’s just 1-14 thus far in his two games against Philly, and the Sixers have gladly given him the space to freely launch it. Their gambit has worked, although they couldn’t follow it up with interior defense in the second contest. How aggressive he is early on will control how this game flows, and I would be curious to see if one or two early triples cause the Sixers to bend on their lax 3-point defense at all.
The Sixers, in their ceaseless pursuit of non-conformity, made the decision before their last game against Milwaukee to bench their $109M dollar offseason acquisition, Al Horford. Even after moving away from the starters, he didn’t look capable of handling Giannis in the last game, and the Sixers are now relying on some slightly shored-up wing depth to bolster their bench lineups. The arrival of Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks for merely second round picks was a savvy bit of business, but doesn’t change the fact that the Sixers clear weakness lies just past their starting lineup. Embiid remains the weather-vane for this team when he plays.
He lofted the team atop his shoulders in a 112-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets when Ben Simmons sat our, logging a season-high 39 points with 16 rebounds. Their biggest watt remains the unconsciously awful home-road splits. They own the best record in the NBA at home, 26-2, yet sport an identical road record to the New York Knicks, 9-19. That bodes well for Milwaukee’s chances.
Player to Watch: Ben Simmons
Simmons missed the Sixers game against Brooklyn with lingering back pain, but is listed as probable for this contest. He would obviously be a massive upgrade over his nominal replacement, Raul Neto, as his array of drive-and-dish moves carved the Bucks up on Christmas. He still impacted the game in their last matchup with Milwaukee, logging 14 rebounds and nine assists, but he attempted just six shots. Look for him to come out aggressive if his back isn’t holding him back.
Game 56: Against Philly, the Bucks will...
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