The Philadelphia 76ers have lost their third straight game, 124-117 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first game of a mini-series.
The Sixers 39-20 on the season, the same record as the Brooklyn Nets.
Unlike Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Thursday’s game at Fiserv Forum was not competitive. The Bucks built a 20-point first-quarter lead and didn’t look back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 27 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists. Khris Middleton scored 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Bobby Portis had 23 points off the bench. As a team, the Bucks shot 20-for-40 from three-point range.
Joel Embiid posted 24 points on nine-for-21 shooting, three rebounds, and three assists. Tobias Harris returned following a three-game absence due to right knee soreness and recorded 18 points and six assists.
Here are three takeaways:
Bucks offense has it easy
Jrue Holiday scored the game’s first five points, followed by five from Middleton.
Though the Sixers eventually started scoring, their defensive struggles stayed.
Milwaukee made its first 10 field goals and shot 73.7% from the floor in the first quarter. It was obvious to see which team was fully healthy and well rested and which was playing on the second night of a back-to-back without a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (Ben Simmons).
Despite shooting 53.3% from the floor, the Sixers trailed by 17 points at halftime. Wide-open drive-and-kick threes, contested Middleton jumpers, and long-range Brook Lopez bombs were among the many things that hurt the Sixers’ defense.
Embiid wasn’t sharp on second of a back-to-back
Embiid began going in the second quarter after a one-for-six start, going to work in the mid-post.
Lopez, who guarded Embiid, was solid defensively in terms of approach (contest jumpers without getting handsy, corral drives, as well as one can against an absurdly agile 7-footer), but Embiid believed he could score on him at any time, and for good reason. That’s the case for all of his matchups. Still, Lopez and the Bucks did well.
It has to sting for the Sixers that Embiid played both games of this back-to-back and the team couldn’t come away with any wins.
On the other end of the floor, Embiid spent time on Antetokounmpo like he has in the past. The Bucks didn’t require Antetokounmpo to be at his best, though he turned up his aggression in the second half.
Milton play swell
Shake Milton snapped a three-for-17 stretch with a 20-point effort on eight-for-14 shooting. The third-year guard made three-of-five threes and also converted mid-range jumpers, a floater, and a runner.
Milton’s performance should put away concerns that he might have been slumping. Even if quite a few of Milton’s points came when the game was out of hand, it was still positive to see him shoot with confidence and play with less hesitation.
Tyrese Maxey drained two of his four three-point attempts. The rookie had 11 points and five assists in his 19 minutes.
George Hill started against one of his former teams and scored six points on three-for-four shooting.
One piece of news with the Sixers’ bench is that the team on Thursday signed Anthony Tolliver to a second 10-day contract. Once that deal is up, the Sixers must decide whether to keep him for the remainder of the season.
The 39-20 Sixers stay in Milwaukee for game two of the mini series against the 36-22 Bucks Saturday afternoon.