A tad over a month since the Philadelphia 76ers dropped a steaming pile of coal in the Milwaukee Bucks’ stockings on Christmas day. Since then, it’s been far smoother sailing for the Bucks than the Sixers, who seem entirely unable to just be a normal team. Finally, the Bucks have another shot to take down Philly.
Despite hiccups against the Spurs and Nuggets, the Milwaukee Bucks have won every other contest since that X-Mas day pounding. The Bucks faced a barrage of triples (21/44; 47.1%) from the Sixers that day, which sunk any chances of a comeback. Just as important, Giannis had one of his worst games of the season, going just 8/27 from the field, including starting 0/7 from deep. That seemed to set the tone, as Embiid was more than happy to let Giannis sling it from 3-point land with a healthy cushion. Whether he can get a few in-rhythm threes to fall early could significantly impact how the Sixers defense fares in this one. More importantly, despite the length on both sides, there were minimal free throw attempts, just 23 total between the two teams. Keep an eye at the rim. Philly had success last game, but they’ve been just a league-average rim protecting team all year.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
For all intents and purposes, Eric Bledsoe has basically missed Milwaukee’s last two matchups with the Sixers. Last year, he got tossed in the early going with his retaliatory action throwing the ball at Philly, and he was hurt for the Christmas day game. The Sixers are without Josh Richardson, so I’ll be curious to see if Ben Simmons gets the call against Bledsoe. We haven’t had a chance to see how Milwaukee can play with their starting point guard against Philly, but given the Sixers length inside, it may be tough for Bledsoe to finish in his usual efficient manner. He’ll have to avoid the trick of settling for tough jumpers and potentially focus on facilitating to his teammates.
So, things aren’t great in Philly land right now. Jimmy Butler, their former rugged wing/ball handler who spurned them for Riley’s ring-laden fingers in Miami, put a spanking on them in a 137-106 defeat on Monday. Butler notched 38 alone. Prior to that, the Celtics beat them by 21, and even the lowly Hawks took them down, 127-117. The common through-line? Every one of those were on the road, where Philly is a dreadful 9-18 to this point in the season. Their offense has slipped precipitously to the 20th spot, but their top-five defense is still scary. They even dipped their toe into the trade deadline, nabbing Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks from Golden State for a trio of second-rounders.
Still, something feels a tad rotten for this team to be under-performing like this. There’s even a big spread in this month’s Philadelphia Magazine focusing on Brett Brown’s desire to teach his pupils while battling off the frustration of Sixers fans. The one thing we know that cures all ails: winning. Nabbing two victories over the league’s best team would certainly be a soothing salve. Let’s hope the Bucks deprive them of that.
Josh Richardson should be the only notable Sixer out for this one.
Player to Watch: Ben Simmons
Simmons was an assist machine in the last game, penetrating the Bucks defense and notching 14 assists on the afternoon. When his teammates knock down shots at that clip from the outside, he can be a monster facilitator in addition to his ability at the rim and defensively. Milwaukee needs to find a way to disrupt passing lanes, avoid over-helping and deter Simmons from slicing and dicing his way to the tin.
Game 51: Against Philly, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)