Giannis Outduels Embiid/Sixers, Bucks Steal Thriller 118-116

NBA: FEB 06 76ers at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) dribbles the ball in a action during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Tuesday night, in a battle of two of the top teams in the East, the Sixers hosted Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. After one quarter, James Harden‘s early aggression carried Philly to a 27-24 deficit. MVP-favorite Joel Embiid struggled into the second quarter but awakened offensively during the latter stages of the first half. The Sixers responded to their first-quarter deficit by outscoring the Bucks 37-24 in the second quarter, which resulted in a 61-51 halftime lead.

Milwaukee outscored Philly 30-28 in the third quarter, but the Sixers held an 89-81 advantage into the final frame. An entertaining fourth quarter saw the Mike Budenholzer-led Bucks outscore the Sixers 37-27, which led to a 118-116 Bucks win. The following will briefly detail the disappointing loss.

Notable Numbers:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 37 minutes, 40 points (16/24 FG, 1/3 3P, 7/10 FT), 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, one steal
  • Joel Embiid: 38 minutes, 29 points (11/21 FG, 3/5 3P, 4/6 FT), 14 rebounds, 7 assists, one steal
  • James Harden: 37 minutes, 32 points (9/17 FG, 4/10 3P, 10/12 FT), 5 rebounds, 9 assists
  • Tobias Harris: 35 minutes, 22 points (10/19 FG, 2/8 3P), 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
  • Khris Middleton: 39 minutes, 22 points (8/17 FG, 3/8 3P, 3/5 FT), 9 rebounds, 7 assists
  • Jrue Holiday: 40 minutes, 18 points (7/16 FG, 2/6 3P, 2/2 FT), 8 rebounds, 10 assists

MVP Race: Embiid vs. Giannis

While nothing in the MVP race was decided tonight, Antetokounmpo’s case certainly surged. The Greek Freak stole Embiid’s moment by blocking his putback layup attempt with less than two seconds remaining to seal the Bucks’ win. This sequence followed an Embiid three in the final minute to pull within one point. Both teams had a plus/minus of +3 with their respective MVP candidates on the floor; however, Antetokounmpo clearly outproduced Embiid in counting stats.

Encouraging Signs from Sixers’ Offense

Despite the loss, Doc Rivers’ squad showed encouraging signs on the offensive end. Particularly, the offense performed with great efficiency on Harden-Embiid screens. In the playoffs, this action could prove pivotal when the pace of the game slows as it allows mismatches to be more easily targeted.

In the first half, the Sixers surprisingly managed to compete effectively with Milwaukee despite Embiid’s slow start (he started 1/8 FG). Harden spearheaded the team’s offensive efforts with his first 30-point game as a Sixer and attacked the paint early and often.

While Danny Green and Georges Niang hit 3 threes apiece, Tyrese Maxey was stifled on the night. In 39 minutes, Maxey recorded just 7 points (3/11 FG, 1/4 3P), 6 assists, and one rebound. Additionally, Tobias Harris attempted 8 threes in the game, his most this season.

Backup Center Update

Rivers chose Paul Millsap over both DeAndre Jordan and Paul Reed to backup Embiid in this particular matchup. The 37-year old veteran forced one turnover, committed a turnover, and missed one shot in his playing time. Jordan and Reed didn’t even leave the bench, while Millsap played 9 minutes. When asked about his choice of Millsap in the postgame press conference, Rivers cited Reed’s struggles in Milwaukee in their last matchup (Reed didn’t play) as the reason why the young forward didn’t get a chance tonight.

Meanwhile, rookie Charles Bassey appeared in a game for the Delaware Blue Coats on Tuesday morning. The second-round center played 38 minutes and accumulated 22 points (7/18 FG, 0/2 3P, 4/6 FT), 11 rebounds, and four blocks. Rivers’ stubbornness in regards to playing the veteran big men over giving the young fives a legitimate opportunity may cost the Sixers a deep playoff run.

Next Game

With seven games remaining in the regular season, the 46-29 Sixers will be back on Thursday at 7:00 ET in Detroit. The game can be followed on NBC Sports Philly and 97.5 The Fanatic. For extended Sixers coverage and more Philadelphia sports content, visit PhillySportsNetwork.com!

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