Game preview: Sixers return home to face the Bucks

NBA: FEB 06 Rockets at Lakers
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 06: Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks at the basket before the Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Lakers game on February 06, 2020, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)

Tonight is the tie-breaker night for the Sixers and Bucks as they come into the game with the same record, tied for second place in the Eastern Conference, and have a 1-1 series record.

Embiid vs. Antetokounmpo

The biggest matchup for the night will be between Sixers All-Star Center, Joel Embiid, and the Bucks All-Star Forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Statistically, they’re both the same with Embiid holding a slight lead in points, 29.9 to 29.7, on the season.

While they’re two different players on the court, all eyes will be on the MVP candidates from both teams. Embiid needs a good showing and a win, in order to boost himself up in the MVP race as well as keep his team ahead of the Bucks in the standings. Giannis is looking for the same exact things. It will be a showdown for sure and excitement throughout the Wells Fargo Center will be high in this late-season battle.

Sixers keys to victory

While Giannis and Embiid have their individual battle, it will come down to which team can do more to support its stars. Brook Lopez will be in the lineup for the Bucks and adds another 7-footer to throw at Embiid on the defensive end while Jrue Holiday should be in the lineup and gives the Bucks a better flowing offense with his vision and scoring.

With Lopez able to take up minutes along with Bobby Portis and Serge Ibaka, the Bucks have some interior depth to slow down Embiid, but that hasn’t really worked for many teams this season. Embiid has to have a stellar game against their interior defenders.

Holiday, along with Khris Middleton and Grayson Allen, are a quality trio on the floor but don’t seem to be as formidable as Tobias Harris, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey. If the Sixers are going to win, they’ll need a better game from Harden than his most recent outing against the Suns, where he shot 2-11 from the field for only 14 points.

Harris, for all of the arguments about his contract, has been as steady as they come this season for the Sixers. While his points are down since Harden’s arrival, which was to be expected, he’s seemed to find his place in the offense of late and has been shooting 44.4% from three-pointers over the past ten games.

Tyrese Maxey has seen his game, while not exactly his stats, improve since Harden’s arrival. He’s shown that he’s coming off the screens better, taking more effective shots, and improving in every aspect of his game. What no one really saw coming from Maxey this season is his three-point shooting, which is currently at 41.6%, which is good for ninth place in the league. They’re going to need a good game from him, if they’re going to win against the Bucks.

Then there’s the Sixers bench..

The Sixers reserves haven’t done much this season. It’s an ongoing issue whether you’re speaking about the rotation or the production. Matisse Thybulle should get the start which means Danny Green, Shake Milton, and Georges Niang will be the first group off the bench unless Embiid gets in early foul trouble.

Niang has been shooting almost 40% from long range on the season, which will provide some spacing with the second unit but Green has seemed to have really lost a step and is only hitting slightly above 36% from deep. Milton, getting himself together, after battling injuries throughout the year, should provide some energy, hustle, and scoring for the unit.

DeAndre Jordan has been eating up the small amounts of minutes that should be going to Charles Bassey and/or Paul Reed, when you’re playing more athletic teams but that’s a discussion for another time.

Do the Sixers win?

It’s a tough question as we get toward the end of the season and both teams are battling for playoff position, but the Sixers should be able to pull this one out. After Harden’s last game, he’s going to look to show that he hasn’t lost a step and it’s more than likely that he’s still bothered, at least somewhat, by the hamstring injury that’s been ongoing throughout the season.

Harden, Maxey, Harris, and Embiid should be too much for Giannis, Middleton, and Holiday tonight. One thing for sure is that tonight’s game will be a good one.

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  • Spread: 76ers -1.5
  • Over-under: 228 points 
  • Money line: 76ers -125,

Sixers – 114 Bucks – 112

Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire