MILWAUKEE — It’s turn out to be reflexive at this level: You see a marquee matchup on the common season schedule and whilst your pulse begins to quicken, you speak your self down.
Certain, you need to see the big-name groups with the brightest stars within the community video games. But when the calendar says something earlier than the second weekend in April, you’ve discovered to have your guard up. Accidents, “load administration,” rotation tinkering and even occasional sandbagging can thwart a showdown within the common season that might have NBA followers salivating within the postseason.
Thankfully for folk displaying up and tuning in Sunday afternoon, neither the Philadelphia 76ers nor the Milwaukee Bucks had been in place to play left-hand by means of their matinee at Fiserv Discussion board.
The Bucks had been at residence, defending a 27-5 mark in Milwaukee whereas dealing with the lack of beginning guard Malcolm Brogdon (proper foot, plantar fascia tear). Brogdon is the one participant within the league taking pictures no less than 50 % from the sector, 40 % from the arc and 90 % from the foul line. His absence would present in a shaky taking pictures efficiency by his teammates.
Pivotal performs of Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler within the Sixers’ victory over their Jap rival.
The Sixers, in the meantime, had been jazzed about beginning their most well-liked lineup for under the seventh time all season. Tobias Harris’ arrival final month earlier than the commerce deadline, adopted by accidents to Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, had restricted coach Brett Brown to only a half dozen video games to all three with backcourt Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick. Continuity issues for contenders, as does familiarity, so Philadelphia had 4 weeks starting Sunday to get totally acquainted.
“Sixers Three.zero,” Redick stated afterward of this newest incarnation.
Stated Brown: “There isn’t a proper to have a fluid aspect and a chemistry and symmetry. [We] don’t have any proper to have that. It’s not anyone’s fault however the calendar’s. Rising and being enthusiastic about that and attempting to shine that earlier than the playoffs start is our aim.”
The aim appeared a bit extra in focus after the Sixers’ 130-125 victory. What it lacked in drama — after the early minutes of the second quarter, Philadelphia’s lead solely slipped to inside a single possession within the closing seconds, with Milwaukee desperately fouling — it made up for in moments. And particular person performances. And techniques and counters to file away ought to they see one another once more in Could (in addition they meet April Four in Philadelphia).
Embiid was a monster for the Sixers with 40 factors, 15 rebounds, six assists and three steals. His most promising stat might need been his 15-of-31 taking pictures. Twice this season, the Philadelphia middle had been restricted (by his group or the opposite guys) to single digits in field-goal makes an attempt. Eight of the 11 video games wherein he shot the ball 15 instances or fewer got here earlier than Christmas.
However he’s averaging about 22 pictures in his 4 video games again after lacking eight (left knee soreness) after the All-Star break. That’s a profession excessive degree and a greater quantity each for him and his group, made potential by the threats surrounding him now.
Joel Embiid provides 15 boards and 6 assists to his 40 factors.
Butler, in the meantime, scored 14 of his 27 factors within the fourth quarter, taking command at his favourite time of the sport and taking air out of the ball from Milwaukee’s late gasps.
As for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s monster efficiency — a career-high 52 factors, with 16 rebounds, seven assists, a plus-12 ranking, 19-of-21 from the foul line and three Three-pointer in eight tries — even that meant one thing constructive for the Sixers. They caught to their schemes, didn’t overreact to the Greek Freak’s enormity and received some video to bone up on, ought to they meet for 4 or extra this spring.
You would possibly assume a defensive participant’s shoulders would sag to see Antetokounmpo, so harmful in most different methods, pulling up — and hitting — from the arc. However the Sixers had made up their thoughts to reside and even die with that Sunday, merely submitting it away.
“I believe they really feel the identical means about me,” Embiid stated, after making 4 of his 13 Three-point pictures. “They let me shoot, they left me broad open the entire evening from three. If he’s going to go 10-for-15 from three, we are able to make some adjustment. However that’s one thing we’re going to reside with.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s high efficiency, a career-high 52 factors, did not yield a victory.
That might have been a postseason transfer, Brown stated. Moreover, Antetokounmpo’s teammates had been cooperating, taking pictures 13-of-42 on Three-pointers, simply Four-of-7 from the road and 28-of-69 (40.6 %) general. Even Milwaukee’s first 50-point, 15-rebound sport since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar performed right here couldn’t make up for these numbers.
“For this sport we had been most likely going to journey it out,” the Sixers coach stated. “The phrasing that the majority involves my thoughts if you ask that query is ‘tolerance degree.’ … There’s some extent the place you say, ‘Sufficient’s sufficient.’ Tonight wasn’t going to be a type of nights for me.
“Within the occasion you do match up within the playoffs, what are you able to be taught, particularly the right way to beat ‘em in a four-game sequence? Possibly that philosophy would change in that sort of surroundings. However tonight I really feel like we had been going to remain in our schemes and reside with it.”
Quite a lot of Sixers referred afterward to Milwaukee because the NBA’s greatest group “by document,” an asterisk implied. You’ll get arguments on each side whether or not there really are “assertion video games” which have legs into the playoffs. So let’s simply say Philadelphia laid down a marker.
And its biggest problem will come from inside.
“The important thing factor is we’ve all received to remain wholesome,” Embiid stated of the following 4 weeks. “We go from there. We play collectively. We’re studying the right way to play with one another. We really feel snug with one another. We all know the place all of us need the ball at after we’re all snug. We’ve received time to determine all of it out. We’ve received 4 video games in a row, in order that’s a superb begin.”
Steve Aschburner has written concerning the NBA since 1980. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and comply with him on Twitter.
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