Fresh on the heels of a loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Sixers are back in action for a matchup tonight with a familiar Eastern Conference foe- the Milwaukee Bucks. This will be the second time this season that the two teams will match up this season, with the Bucks securing an overtime victory in the first game by a score of 109-105. It is important to note that the Sixers were without Joel Embiid for this matchup and it took a balanced scoring effort from the Sixers bench to keep the game close.
Perhaps the greatest advantage the Bucks hold heading into this matchup is the rest that they have. Milwaukee last played on Monday against the Suns, despite both the Sixers and Suns matching up yesterday. When asked about this following last night’s loss, Doc Rivers replied that “Clearly it’s a disadvantage,” but maintained that the team’s focus will still be on securing a victory tonight.
The Bucks are currently in third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 35-22. They sit 3.5 games behind the Sixers for first place in the conference. The Bucks rank third in the league in pace and first in scoring with 119.3 points per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to be the focal point for the Bucks as he is sixth in the NBA in points per game with 28.5. He also adds 11.2 rebounds and 6 assists to the stat sheet on a nightly basis making the two-time MVP a tough matchup for anyone.
Looking to squash the narrative of being over performers, the Bucks went all-in this offseason to acquire Jrue Holiday. The former Sixer has been a solid addition to the team and has added 17.4 points per game of his own. The trio of Giannis, Kris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday has shown flashes of working extremely well together, making them an intimidating playoff matchup despite the lack of buzz surrounding the team.
Milwaukee comes into the game riding a cold streak as they are 5-5 in their last 10 and have dropped their last two games. The Bucks are allowing 115.9 points to opposing teams during this stretch and would be the third-worst number in the NBA of this continued for the entire season. Their lack of defense is somewhat surprising and the Sixers should look to exploit this in tonight’s matchup. The Bucks are expected to be fully healthy for tonight’s matchup and currently have no one listed on the injury report.
The story with the Sixers has changed greatly on a nightly basis depending on who is available to play. Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer for this when looking ahead to this matchup. Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons have each missed the last two games and remain questionable for tonight. Seth Curry’s status is also up in the air after being ruled out last night with a left hip flexor injury. Joel Embiid told reporters that he plans to play tonight despite logging 33 minutes last night.
It is likely it won’t be until shortly before the game that the full roster for tonight will be known. Even heading into last night’s game Doc Rivers had no idea who would be clear or not and simply put it that a lot of guys were “on the brink” of playing. Rivers also said that he hoped Ben Simmons would be able to travel with the team but was not positive this would be the case.
The Sixers have now dropped back-to-back games to the Warriors and Suns, but have clearly had their sights set on the matchup with the Bucks. Doc Rivers has talked throughout the season about prioritizing in-conference games, and facing the Bucks in back-to-back games is sure to be a priority for the team. The Sixers certainly hope to get a few guys back tonight and due to the importance of the game, it seems certain guys will play if they are healthy. Regardless, the statuses will be up in the air until shortly before the game and should remain a story to watch.
In a small piece of news, it was also announced that Anthony Tolliver has signed his second 10-day contract with the team. This may be a small sign of things to come for Mike Scott, who has continued to squander opportunities this season. He made his debut against the Clippers last week and while quiet offensively, drew praise from Doc Rivers.
Tonight will be the first of two back-to-back games against the Bucks. These are two extremely important matchups for the Sixers as they playoff seeding begin to finalize. If the Sixers are able to win both, they will crush all hopes the Bucks have of climbing into the first or second seed. If the Bucks are able to win both, the Sixers may no longer hold control of the first seed which is extremely important.
The Bucks enter this game as eight-point favorites and the game will take place in Milwaukee. It is extremely important for the Sixers to win at least one of the upcoming matchups and hopefully, they will have the available bodies to get the job done. At full strength, the Sixers are a more complete team, but injuries could limit their chances. Tonight will set the tone for the two-game series so look for the Sixers to come out with a statement.
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