June 5, 2023

3 takeaways after shorthanded 76ers fall short of upsetting defending champs Bucks


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Despite another strong shorthanded effort, the Sixers’ back-to-back ended with nothing but moral victories.

They fell to the Bucks on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, 118-109, dropping to 8-4 on the season.

Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 20 rebounds, while Shake Milton gave the Sixers 20 points and six assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 31 points and 16 rebounds. 

Seth Curry missed Tuesday’s game due to a left foot contusion. Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Isaiah Joe remained in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo were out with injuries. 

Here’s three takeaways:

Maxey’s red-hot start

Maxey allowed five early points to former teammate George Hill but didn’t take long to exceed that total on the other end. Maxey exploded for 17 points in the first quarter on 7-for-9 shooting, knocking down jumpers, driving layups, and that beautiful floater.

Maxey always seems to come up big when the Sixers are shorthanded. They can really use it.

Maxey cooled off after the first, and the jumper-dependent Sixers had a difficult time stringing together baskets as a whole in the middle portion of the game.  

Never shy about shooting, Korkmaz went 2-for-18 from the floor — 1-for-12 from three-point range. His highs are high, and the lows are very low. 

As for Maxey, scoring wasn’t the only quality he brought to the table Tuesday. He made an incredible high-flying, two-handed block on Pat Connaughton in the third quarter. No Sixers regular is at 100% right now, but Maxey did a convincing impression of a well-rested player.

Reed vs. Antetokounmpo

Second year Paul Reed matched up with a two-time NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Sound like fun.

He was joined by Maxey, Milton, Korkmaz, and Andre Drummond in the Sixers’ starting lineup as Danny Green came off the bench in his second game back following a three-game absence with left hamstring tightness.

Offensively, Reed started off hot. His first quarter included a mid-range jumper, a pristine put-back dunk, and a layup after he pump faked a corner three.

The other end of the floor was challenging, but Reed was determined to prevent Antetokounmpo from easy offense. He did foul him on a second-quarter fadeaway jumper — a call he was not a fan of — but otherwise avoided high-risk contact well. Against Antetokounmpo, that’s generally the best one can do. He’s a special player, and Reed should learn from what worked (and what didn’t) on him.

In 23 minutes, Reed finished with six points, six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. A fine night for the kid.

Ditching the 10-man rotation

Rivers promised a 10-man rotation after Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks, but he ended up using eight, not employing rookies Jaden Springer and Aaron Henry against the defending champions.

Big man Charles Bassey, the Sixers’ other active rookie, checked in for Drummond and played four minutes at the beginning of the second quarter. He pulled off an impressive weak-side block on Antetokounmpo during that stretch, a play which led to a Milton three.

Following Drummond’s re-entry, things went way downhill for the Sixers. He missed two inside shots and committed a poor turnover during a 10-0 Bucks run. Despite a quick break topped by a Reed block on Antetokounmpo, the Bucks regained momentum heading into halftime and had a 61-58 lead at the break. 

Georges Niang was fantastic as a shooter, knocking down his first five three-pointers and scoring 21 points, but way less successful when he faced with the near-impossible task of defending Antetokounmpo.

Niang does battles, though, and clearly hates getting picked on but few players are as ready to guard Antetokounmpo, who hit another level in the third quarter. 

The Sixers worked to limit Antetokounmpo’s scoring opportunities down the stretch, but he was content to kick the ball out to the open man. A late Grayson Allen corner three from an Antetokounmpo pass just about sealed the win for Milwaukee.

The Sixers face the Toronto Raptors Thursday night at home in their next matchup. Then they’ll hit the road and head out to Indiana on Saturday.

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