Sixers look to end Bucks league-best winning streak

Sixers, PJ Tucker, James Harden
Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) advances the ball against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Philadelphia 76ers, coming off of a thrilling near-comeback against the Dallas Mavericks, continue their five-game road trip as they are set to face the league’s top team, the Milwaukee Bucks. Can the Sixers be the team to finally end the Bucks’ winning streak?

Bucks vs. Sixers game info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (40-22) at Milwaukee Bucks (45-17)

When: 8:30 pm EST

Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI.

Watch: ABC, ESPN 2

Eye on the Sixers

The Sixers, while not completely falling apart, have been reeling of late. They’ve lost three of their past four games, including a 133-126 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. While the Sixers played well offensively, they allowed the Mavericks to 54.9% from the floor and 52.1% on three-pointers, going 25-48 from beyond the arc.

There’s no way to come back against a team hitting that well from downtown. Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic combined for 82 points in the game and were 13-21 from deep. While the Sixers, who are one of the better teams at defending the three, couldn’t stop the Mavericks.

The good thing for the Sixers is that guard Tyrese Maxey has been in the starting lineup for the past two games and responded with 27 and 29 points, respectively. He’s shot over 50% from the field as well as from past the three-point line in the past two games. For someone who’s taken a 6th man role in stride and played hard all season, he thrives in the starting lineup and while playing alongside James Harden and Joel Embiid.

Joel Embiid had 35 points, and James Harden finished the Mavericks game with 27 points and 13 assists. The stars are playing well; the problem is, as it has been for the whole season, is the Sixers bench just can’t seem to put any type of continuity or really anything together. Part of this is having overvalued players like Shake Milton, Georges Niang, and Daniel House.

Paul Reed had 29 minutes against the Heat and gave the Sixers 16 points and 14 rebounds, while against the Mavericks, he was back down to 9 minutes and 2 points. It’s understandable that Reed won’t see a lot of minutes when Joel Embiid starts, but the Sixers have to find a way to get him in for more than nine minutes. PJ Tucker, in 24 minutes, had only 3 points. You mean to tell me that Reed couldn’t have helped where Tucker was failing?

The Sixers can’t be counted out when you feature Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey on the court with good complimentary pieces like DeAnthony Melton, newcomer Jalen McDaniels, and even Shake Milton; you just never know when those guys will actually show up on the floor, and it has cost the Sixers games this season.

Eye on the Bucks

Is there anything that would bring hope for the Sixers coming into this game? The Bucks are riding a 16-game win streak. You read that correctly, sixteen games. The Bucks haven’t lost since January 21st, and that was to the Cavaliers. Since then, they’ve just been running through anyone that’s crossed their path. On Tuesday night, they beat the Magic 139-117, with seven players scoring in double figures. They didn’t even have Kris Middleton playing, and he’s been averaging 13.6 points per game this season. He’ll be in the lineup against the Sixers tonight.

Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t played more than 28 minutes in the past two games and still finished with 33 and 31 points in those two games. He’s leading the Bucks with 31.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, and he’s doing it in under 33 minutes per game. He’s been the definition of great this season. Paired with Jrue Holiday, who’s averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game and the Bucks have a duo that rivals Harden and Embiid.

The key for the Bucks is that after their starts, they have a good rotation and a mix of players that all contribute and come up big when there are chances to do so. Kris Middleton has been bothered by injury this year but is averaging 13.6 points per game. Grayson Allen, Brook Lopez, Jae Crowder, Jevon Carter, Joe Ingles, and Bobby Portis have all played well and are helping this team operate as a complete unit.

Lopez, Portis, Middleton, and Allen are all averaging over ten points per game. Portis, particularly, is averaging 14 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Bucks this season. He’s a huge asset off the bench for a team that’s looking to make a run at another NBA Championship after getting knocked out of the playoffs last season by the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round.

This year, the Bucks have been as good as advertised, and their 16-game win streak has them at the top of the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Celtics and five games above the third-place 76ers. They’re looking to increase that tonight.

What to look for

It’s hard to guess which Sixers team will show up, while the Bucks have a pretty defined roster and rotation. The Sixers stars, Embiid and Harden, will do their best and put up numbers, but, and this is the big one, does anyone else show up? Will Tyrese Maxey be starting again, or will head coach Doc Rivers switch the young star back to the bench? Will Paul Reed get more minutes? Will PJ Tucker get more than 4 points? Will Georges Niang shoot over 27% from three-point land?

These are all questions for the Sixers, and that doesn’t even cover all of them. For the Bucks, they have just answers. It could and should be an ugly night for the Sixers.

Prediction: Bucks 123 – Sixers 114