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Joel Embiid, Sergio Rodriguez assist Sixers late against Milwaukee

Efficient second-half basketball gave the Philadelphia 76ers their sixth win in nine games.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid returned for the Philadelphia 76ers (13-26), after missing Saturday’s game against Washington, and his second-half dominance led to a Sixers 113-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks (20-20). His anticipated battle with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had both looking like a two-way demigods. Embiid struggled early finding his proverbial footing, but two early turnovers and indecision offensively didn’t faze the rookie.

Embiid finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and two steals in the win. As a definite two-way force, Embiid’s defensive impact was profound tonight. Altering shots from John Henson, Jabari Parker and other Milwaukee Bucks frontcourt players. It’s a valuable aspect he brings, and will bring, as the Sixers’ center of the present and future. The team is hyper-reliant on his offensive ability currently. When additional pieces are added this offseason, he’ll naturally shoulder less of a weight.

With no Nerlens Noel, due to a left ankle sprain, the frontcourt had to make up for Noel’s absence. Eventually, it was Dario Saric (17 points, nine rebounds) that proved to be the supplemental piece. Saric has endured a prolonged struggle offensively, but Monday, he was essential in the win. His activity offensively, cutting, getting offensive rebounds and finishing through contact was apparent and helped fuel the late push.

Former Buck Ersan Ilyasova (14 points, 4-of-14 shooting) followed an efficient offensive performance Saturday with a paltry outing. The threes weren’t going through the nylon, his relatively awkward attempts from mid-range didn’t convert and even though he was somewhat active on the offensive glass, he was overpowered regularly. Even though Brett Brown has been adamant about having Saric come off the bench in the frontcourt, it wouldn’t be dire to experiment.

He thrived with Antetokounmpo off the court in the second-half. The “Greek Freak” looked almost uncontainable in the first half, plowing through the Sixers defense at will and sinking mid-range looks. He contributed 23 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks, a stat line that’s been common with him throughout this season, but his absence gave way to Philadelphia exploiting the Bucks’ lack of depth.

Sergio Rodriguez showed team-leading capabilities in the second half, helping to orchestrate a needed Sixers run. His versatility was evident, contributing 10 points, seven boards and six assists, be he appeared to have a better point guard acumen late in the game. The first half felt like possessions were rushed with Rodriguez, but he evolved late, similar to Embiid. It’s that type of recovery that’ll be essential when the Sixers reach contender status.

Other Takeaways:

  • Entry passes were shoddy in the first half. A mix of poor precision and Milwaukee’s activeness on that end resulted in a multitude of turnovers.
  • Chasson Randle looked composed in his second game with the Sixers, spelling Sergio Rodriguez at point guard. The 10-day contract talent sunk two triples and showed some natural explosion with the ball. He didn’t facilitate like El Chacho, but Randle’s three-point acumen has value.
  • Jahlil Okafor had his second straight efficient night offensively. Working on John Henson and Greg Monroe in the post, Okafor converted shots regularly near the basket. He’s not showcasing a mid-rage game, a la Noel, but he’s thriving in his wheelhouse recently.

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