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Milwaukee v. Philadelphia: Road Blues Strike Bucks

Blue road unis on an opponent's blue home court gives me the blues watching at home

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Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

When you’re the beneficiaries of a historical matchup as recently lopsided as Bucks-Sixers has been, you take making Philly look clownish on their home court for granted. Winners of the last eight out of nine games played between these two, the Bucks looked set to make it nine of 10 with a relatively strong offensive first half. Then Philadelphia adjusted. Then they started swarming Giannis. Then Giannis reverted to the mean of his career-low FT% season. Then the Sixers spammed the same Joel Embiid P&R action four straight possessions and scored in each. Then the Bucks lost.

Three Things

Giannis giveth, Giannis taketh. An up and down night for Antetokounmpo in which the downs eventually neutralized his contributions on the offensive end. A real pain too, given the general lack of offensive creativity elsewhere in the lineups Mike Budenholzer can run out there right now. Scoring 25 points, the two big trends that stood out were typically Giannis things: First, a total inability to make free throws once he is in the doldrums — he went 4-15 from the line and a whopping 2-10 in the second half — Second, the sheer willpower to keep going at Philadelphia’s paint defense to draw fouls in spite of his poor FT numbers. I truly, sincerely appreciate his fearlessness in the face of his own weaknesses and his desire to keep hammering away. But by the fourth quarter the physical strain of that strategy showed as he opted to fire three of his four shots that quarter from three; he missed all three. His FT% on the year now drops to 58.7%. Not good.

Jrue Holiday’s return is a mixed bag. Making his first appearance since missing the four previous games with an ankle injury, Jrue Holiday was so-so. He came off the bench to start the second quarter and would total up 23 minutes of play. Compared to Jevon Carter’s go go go style of PG play, it was a pleasure to watch Jrue’s relatively languid approach. Unfortunately, the burst isn’t fully back, and he struggled a bit on both ends of the court to maintain contact on defense or create enough separation for positive offensive playmaking. 10 points for him, but no makes on four shots from three and five turnovers. Fingers crossed that a few more days of rest will have him looking right against the Blazers on Monday.

Embiid executes to close. Both teams were begging the other to string together two competent possessions and win the game. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Philly answered the call faster and ran away with it. Brook Lopez did his usual solid job matching Embiid nearly stride for stride, minute for minute, through 90% of the game. With three minutes left and the Sixers up 102-99, Doc Rivers opted to run the same Melton-Embiid P&R action on four straight possessions. Brook gave Embiid a little bit of space in the midrange, and the result was six points and an assist for Embiid as Philly got eight points out of four shots. Meanwhile, Giannis took an ill-advised three, and Jrue was called for an offensive foul. In the margins in a close game, the Bucks just didn’t have it.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Joel Embiid hit Giannis with one of the dirtier moves I’ve seen in a while. That he then has the audacity to fall over like an overgrown child after Giannis takes his shoulder/elbow full-force to the chest is so typical of him. One of the more contemptible on-court characters of this era.

And shoutout to Bobby for getting right in Embiid’s face after the game. You gotta let these dudes know it isn't all love once the final buzzer goes.

  • I didn’t even know there was Giannis ladder discourse. From what the internet is telling me, Giannis literally eviscerated no fewer than five Wells Fargo Center employees with a ladder after the game. Wow. This league. Frank found the footage:
  • It is once more time to have the talk about Giannis’s free throws... If you thought your career as a home-bound internet-addled shot doctor was over, think again! The % sucks right now, and to my eyes, it looks like he’s getting lost in the final motion and follow-through. Once he begins missing he becomes even more deliberate in the release and that’s where the adventures start. His final arm extension and held frame belie a deep desire to guide it in through force of will, but it just isn’t there. Bad news for Milwaukee if he’s back to being beneath mediocre there.
  • Not sure who picks which uniforms we wear, but whoever happened upon the idea of wearing jerseys that almost exactly match with Philly’s mostly-blue court should have that responsibility taken away from them. I was quite upset having to watch that combo of aesthetically poor blue uniform on that court as if we were the home team. If they’re trying to get me to hate their newest alternate, they’re off to a good start.
  • Without Khris Middleton it remains a guessing game of who else not named Giannis will help carry the load. And when Giannis struggles, that question becomes painfully crucial and demands the emergence of more than one other guy. Bobby Portis answered the call with 21 points on 9-13 shooting, but after Brook’s 15 points there wasn’t much else of note from anyone else.
  • Grayson Allen came off the bench again as Budenholzer rides the MarJon Beauchamp starter dragon. MarJon was solid defensively in coverage, but besides a nice transition pass to Jrue, he did not do much else on offense. Grayson made a three and did a fine job collecting a few loose rebounds. Allen would close the game. but was unable to make good a few late looks.
  • In the span of 30 seconds I demanded Jordan Nwora retire, and then unretire. With Milwaukee’s offense slumping in the third, Nwora actually stood up and made a pair of needed baskets in short succession. A shame he’s too unreliable to feature much.
  • You’ve gotta love the Philly faithful. They carry around a self-imposed persecution complex heavier than any wooden cross the Romans could manage to build, and they’re willing to turn on their own team with a speed that you have to see and hear to believe. Cut to the second quarter, four minutes remaining, and the Sixers down merely eight points. Danuel House blows a fast break opportunity off a poor pass, Bucks ball, and Sixers fans immediately begin booing the boys in red. An eight-point deficit! Amazing.
  • The non-Giannises had one of the silliest offensive sequences I’ve seen in a long time shortly after that House turnover. Grayson Allen on the left wing to Jordan Nwora opposite corner, Nwora maybe travels twice before getting it to Brook who misses. Bobby collects the rebound, who goes back to Nwora who may have traveled a few more times before a Brook three. Grayson gets THAT rebound and passes to Jevon Carter who gets his three blocked before the ball falls into Bobby’s hands and he finishes with a turnaround J in the face of numerous Sixers.

The Bucks are back at home Monday to play the Portland Trail Blazers.

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