Hope you’re having a good weekend in the wake of that Thursday downer the Milwaukee Bucks gave us. They’re back in action tonight at Fiserv Forum for another Eastern Conference heavyweight battle, this time against the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. The Bucks are still in poll position for the league’s best record but need to get back on the winning track, and could really use a victory over one of their top rivals to inspire some more confidence with the regular season ending a week from today.
Where We’re At
After taking a thrashing from the Celtics that we all would rather forget (but shouldn’t entirely), the Bucks still remain in the East’s top seed. Boston’s Friday win closed their gap to a game and a half, so the magic number to clinch home court advantage throughout the Eastern bracket remains at four, as it did entering Thursday’s action. The good news is that the Bucks still have five games left to achieve that goal including this one, and they’re pretty healthy too. Khris Middleton will reportedly play despite sustaining a gnarly blow to the face which required stitches and is not listed on the injury report. Jevon Carter is, however, with left knee soreness (a.k.a. 2023 Buck-itis). Meyers Leonard remains out with his sore calf. Thanasis Antetokounmpo will also serve the suspension he earned for shoving Blake Griffin today.
Meanwhile in Philly, the Sixers are pretty firmly locked into the three seed with five of their own left. After returning home from a brutal 0-3 Western Conference road trip, they took out the reeling Mavs and the middling Raptors in succession, though not in convincing fashion. Welcoming James Harden back to the lineup on Wednesday, neither he or MVP favorite Joel Embiid were especially spectacular in either contest, but the Bucks certainly haven’t forgotten how those two combined with longtime Buck killer Georges Niang to bulrush their defense in that 48-point fourth quarter just under a month ago, ending the Bucks’ 16-game win streak. Philadelphia is completely healthy, only missing some young guys on G League assignments.
Player To Watch
The last time we saw these two squads duel, both took the floor at pretty full strength, healthwise; the main difference for Milwaukee was that Middleton was still coming off the bench. If you recall, though, Philly lost old friends Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker to injuries just after half. That was somewhat good for Giannis, who scored 21 points in the second half, though it came on a gross 4/13 from the floor. Kudos to him for knocking down all twelve of his free throw attempts in his 18-point fourth, but he had a fair bit of trouble with pressed-into-action backups Paul Reed and Jalen McDaniels in that one, not to mention Embiid. He’ll be seeing a lot of Tucker this time, who is of course a dogged defender, but doesn’t have the length or youthfulness of the aforementioned trio, so I’m interested to see if he can indeed fare better. Honorable mention goes to Middleton (and his fat lip), who struggled mightily last month, especially on defense in that fourth.
Game 78: Against Philadelphia, 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)