Sixers come up short in sloppy yet encouraging season opener

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Milwaukee Bucks’ Damian Lillard shoots between Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. and Joel Embiid during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 118-117. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Philadelphia 76ers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the dynamic duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Despite the Sixers outscoring the Bucks 63-55 in the second half, Philadelphia was unable to overcome the clutch shooting of Damian Lillard and a poor free throw shooting performance, going 19/28 from the line (67.85%).

Milwaukee’s new duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard combined for a total of 62 points, 21 rebounds, and seven assists. The Sixers committed 28 personal fouls, with Paul Reed (four), Kelly Oubre Jr. (four), P.J. Tucker (five), and Joel Embiid (five) all finding themselves in foul trouble at different points in the game.

The Sixers showed fight but came up short

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. asses between Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Philadelphia showed incredible tenacity in a game that they were continuously down. After initially taking the lead early in the first quarter, 5-3. The next time they were able to retake the lead was at 8:20 in the fourth quarter at 95-94. Despite Lillard’s record-breaking 39-point debut for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Sixers managed to stay with Milwaukee, fighting until the bitter end. They trailed multiple times throughout the game by double digits, always managing to fight their way back with solid defense and exciting, constant-motion offense.

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid finished the game with 24 points on 9/21 shooting. The big man also went 3/8 from three, grabbed seven rebounds, and picked up six assists. He was also effective, if not perfect, as a roaming paint protector, securing one block and altering countless shots. However, Embiid uncharacteristically struggled from the free throw line, going 3/8. He also had seven turnovers due, in part, to Milwaukee double-teaming him on every dribble drive.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid tries to get past Milwaukee Bucks’ Bobby Portis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

As a shining bright spot, Tyrese Maxey was excellent as the primary ball handler, exploding for 31 points and an encouraging eight assists in the game. Other players stepped up in Harden’s absence as well, such as Kelly Oubre Jr., who exploded off of the bench for 27 points on 9/11 shooting from the field and 5/6 from beyond the arc.

Tobias Harris stepped up as well, scoring 20 points on 8/9 shooting (3/3 from three-point range). Jaden Springer was also able to make an early 2nd quarter appearance that surely excited Sixers fans, blocking two shots in only five minutes of play.

The Sixers’ next game will be against Nick Nurse’s former team, the Toronto Raptors, on Saturday, October 28th, at 7:30 PM Eastern. Philadelphia will look to get their first win of the season against the currently 1-0 Raptors squad led by star power forward Pascal Siakam.