Sixers vs. Bucks: Betting preview, how to watch & predictions

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Milwaukee Bucks head coach Doc Rivers reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Philadelphia 76ers are at home for an afternoon showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks, with former head coach Doc Rivers returning for the first time as coach of the Bucks since being fired from the Sixers. Coming off of a huge victory over the Cavaliers on Friday night, the Sixers will be looking to take down another team above them in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Bucks are coming off a win over the Timberwolves on Friday and are looking to catch up to the Cavs for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.

Sixers vs Bucks betting info

Spread: Philadelphia 76ers + 4.5 | Milwaukee Bucks -4.5
Moneyline: Philadelphia 76ers +154 | Milwaukee Bucks -185
Total: Over/Under 235

Sixers game information

Who: Milwaukee Bucks (36-21) at Philadelphia 76ers (33-23)

When: 1:00 pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA

Watch: ABC

Latest on the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) goes up for a shot against Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers are in the midst of four games to start the final part of the season against the four teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings. Having lost to the Knicks in their first game back after the All-Star break, the Sixers put it all together on Friday night to take down the 2nd place Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-97.

All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey is the unquestioned leader of the Sixers with Joel Embiid being out, and he’s been playing well, especially since being paired with newly acquired Buddy Hield. Maxey led the Sixers on Friday with 24 points, seven rebounds, and five assists but shot only 9-22 from the field. The shots aren’t as easy for Maxey without Embiid on the floor, and he’s faced intense defense as he’s the main scorer on the team for the time being.

Hield has been playing amazingly since being acquired at the trade deadline, and even though he only had 13 points against the Cavs, he shot 5-9 from the field and 3-6 on his three-point attempts. Since coming to the Sixes Hield has shot 49.5% from the field and 45.5% on his triples, he’s averaging 19.3 points per game and also 6.2 assists. He’s been a huge addition to the club and will be a force for the team if Embiid is able to come back for the playoffs.

The Sixers desperately need Tobias Harris to figure out a way out of his shooting woes. Despite scoring 15 points and adding nine rebounds against the Cavs, Harris shot only 6-14 from the floor, and that’s not going to cut it for a team that’s missing the most dominant player in the league. Harris, over his last ten games, has averaged 16 points but is shooting just 28.7% on his three-point attempts. If he’s not able to get his shooting back in line, then he’s going to have to be more involved in defense and moving the ball for the playmakers.

Philadelphia should be as close to healthy, minus Embiid, as they’ve been in a long time, with both Nico Batum and DeAnthony Melton expected to play today. That should give them the help they need to compete with the Bucks. Center Paul Reed, while never expected to be a starter, has found himself in that position for the immediate future. If he’s able to match his performance against the Cavs, in which he scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds, the Sixers will be in a much better place when facing some of the tougher teams in the league.

The wildcard for the Sixers is Cam Payne, who gave the Sixers 16 points on 6-11 shooting, including 4-6 on his three-point attempts in just 20 minutes of playing time. The return of Melton and the addition of Payne give the Sixers much-needed scoring off the bench.

Latest on the Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard (0) celebrates his three-point basket with Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

While the Bucks are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference, all has not been well in Milwaukee since Doc Rivers became coach. The team is 4-7 in the eleven games that Rivers has coached, and he’s come out and stated that the transition hasn’t been easy. What the Bucks expected was for Rivers to come in and take control of a team that was in 2nd place in the East and help them get over past the Celtics and move towards a championship. With Rivers, they should have known that he’s not that guy.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, the Bucks have two of the best players in the conference, and they’ve shown their abilities all season. Giannis is having another career year, leading the team with 30.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 61.7% from the floor. Giannis keeps getting better.

Dame Lillard is right behind Giannis and has been everything that the team expected when they acquired him from the Portland Trail Blazers. On the season, Lillard is averaging 24.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, and while 42.1% from the floor isn’t anything great, Lillard is not afraid to shoot and take game-changing shots. At any time, in any game, Lillard could explode for 35 points or more and teams are aware of his reputation, which is helping Giannis have the season he’s having.

In addition to their two stars, the Bucks feature players like Chris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Malik Beasley, and Jae Crowder. The lineup can shut score with the best of the league’s teams, but their defense, despite the size advantage they have with their lineup, is not what they want it to be. Part of the reason that River was brought in was because the team thought they weren’t performing on the defensive side of the ball as they could be. While they’ve not been great, they’re 11th in the league in defense since Rivers arrived.

What to watch for this afternoon

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Doc Rivers reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

The biggest part of today’s game will be seeing the fan’s reactions to Doc Rivers coaching on the opposing team’s sidelines. For all of the Sixers’ regular season success under Rivers, he was never able to lead the team on a long playoff run. All the excuses can be made for various reasons why but in the end, the coach is the person who needs to use his players in the best way possible to get the most success. That’s not what Rivers does, as he’s been a coach who consistently leads the team to the middle.

The Sixers are going to have their healthiest lineup since losing Embiid to injury, so head coach Nick Nurse will have plenty of options to attack the Bucks on both sides of the ball. While players like Batum and Melton aren’t going to light up the stat sheet, it’s games like these where their defense, passing, and versatility could be the difference between winning and losing.

Cam Payne, who’s played well since coming over in a trade that sent Pat Beverley to the Bucks, is probably going to want to show out for the hometown fans and give the Bucks a reason to second-guess their decision to trade him. The Sixers will have a lot of options to run at the Bucks today, and it should make for an exciting game, giving each team a glimpse of a squad they could see come playoff time.

Also, Pat Beverley is making his return to Philly, and he’s looking forward to this matchup against Kyle Lowry. The same goes for the Sixers’ Cam Payne who has no love lost for his former team.


Sixers 121 – Bucks 115