In their final showdown before the NBA’s All-Star Break begins, the Milwaukee Bucks are getting quite a sendoff through Thursday evening’s contest against the Philadelphia 76ers. No matter the roster shakeup, when it’s Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, these two have given us some of the better regular season contests of the past few years.
Where We’re At
I wouldn’t say that the Milwaukee Bucks “found their footing” in their 128-119 victory over the Indiana Pacers, but Giannis certainly found his own footing, often upon the faces of each and every defender Rick Carlisle threw his way. Goga Bitadze likely has neck issues from how frequently he had to gawk at Antetokounmpo slamming it down past him to pour in 50 points on the fourth fewest shots ever. It was so masterful, I say we just watch it again.
Giannis recorded his 3rd career 50-point game in the regular season, the 2nd-most in Bucks history. He trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who has 10. (via @ESPNStatsInfo)— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 16, 2022
50 PTS | 14 REB | 4 AST | 81% FG pic.twitter.com/BuGRegP4Im
One teensy tiny issue was that the defense still looked disjointed, which would be nice to shore up come Playoff time. BUT, we did see much more drop coverage than we’ve come to expect thanks to Serge Ibaka’s insertion. Additionally, Milwaukee should have some wing reinforcements for tonight’s contest, thanks to the signing of DeAndre Bembry becoming official. Good news for all of us a tad tired of watching Jordan Nwora play quite so much.
Welcome to Milwaukee, DeAndre' Bembry!! pic.twitter.com/W4Er0EnL7L— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 16, 2022
As for the opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers made headlines all season due to the Ben Simmons saga, which came to an abrupt halt last week when Daryl Morey traded Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first round picks to Brooklyn for Paul Millsap and James Harden. The latter star is out through the ASB, so we won’t get to see him face off with Giannis, but that doesn’t mean a stray pregame ball couldn’t find his way towards The Beard’s big dome.
Even without Simmons, Philly has marched towards the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference largely upon the back of Joel Embiid, who is averaging 29.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists while thrusting himself either atop or near the summit of the MVP conversation. That being said, their 87-135 thumping at the hands of the Boston Celtics on Tuesday was about as great a “flush the tape” example as we’ll get all season. Philly’s success has come from a top-ten defense and middling offense, and they’re near the top of the league in terms of drawing fouls — so discipline will be key for Bud’s squad. Giannis and Embiid are also neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, so it should make for a fun game-within-the-game there.
For the Bucks, Brook Lopez, George Hill and Pat Connaughton are out. Grayson Allen is doubtful, Wes Matthews is probable.
James Harden and Jaden Springer are the only notable absences for Philly.
Player to Watch
Tyrese Maxey was apparently untouchable when it came to the James Harden trade for Philadelphia, and he was crushing the Bucks early in that 118-109 Milwaukee victory back in early December. He went off for 31 points in the absence of Embiid, nailing triples and screaming to the rim. I’d like to see how the Bucks can contain him on the perimeter, and if their rim deterrence can effectively stonewall him when he gets going downhill.
Game 60: Against Philly, the Bucks will...
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