The first successful regular season post-tanking wraps up tonight as the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Bucks in Philadelphia. Still looking to wrap up the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, a win over Milwaukee would give the Sixers both home court advantage in the first round (which they’ve already clinched) and the matchup against the 6th seed in the East, which will be one of the Bucks, Miami Heat or the Washington Wizards.
Following a win last night against the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers improved to 51-30 on the season and have been riding the wave of a 15 game win streak, the longest since, well, ever! The fact that this team is rewriting franchise history just two years after recording 10 wins in a season is incredibly impressive.
Tonight, the Sixers will look to even the season series against the Bucks, as they have gone 1-2 so far this season. The last time they matched up the Sixers suffered a deflating loss, as they fell apart around halfway through the third quarter after being up by as many as 19 points. Dario Saric had an efficient night for the Sixers, leading the team with 25 points on 9-11 shooting, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was too busy doing Greek Freak things, scoring 35 points along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the comeback win. That disheartening loss seemed to spark something in the Sixers though, as they have gone 17-2 since the loss in Milwaukee.
Last night wasn’t the most memorable win, but it was workman like. A 121-113 win over a team very much trying to tank, J.J. Redick lead the team with his hot shooting (28 points, 6-9 from 3). Without their best player in Joel Embiid and without one of their most consistent starters in Dario Saric who was injured just 13 seconds into the game and didn’t return (don’t worry it was only a cut lip and chipped tooth), the Sixers depth was put to the test and they passed with flying colors, as Ersan Ilyasova had 26 points and 8 rebounds and Marco Belinelli finished with 20 points and 5 three pointers.
This game is important for both sides, as a win would clinch the Sixers the 3 seed and the Bucks would come out of the game clinching the 6 seed with a victory. If the Bucks do sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a win and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose, then the Bucks wouldn’t be going anywhere, as they would have to come into Philly again to play in the first round, something they may want to avoid with the way the Sixers have been playing over the last month.
In order to win this game the Greek Freak will obviously need to be contained if he ends up playing. He has been dealing with a sore right ankle and has been out the last two games in order to heal up in time for the playoffs. The rest of the Bucks roster is very athletic, but he is what makes the lineup go, so stopping him is the first step to winning the game. With this being such an important game, I would expect to see Antetokounmpo in some form. On the Sixers end, it is unknown if Dario Saric will suit up tonight, but if he doesn’t than the Sixers will be without one more offensive weapon, something that they will need to fend off a determined Bucks team. While I do believe the Sixers can win against any possible first round matchup, the Bucks are the team that makes me the most nervous. They play the Sixers extremely well and matchup favorably against Philadelphia because of that athleticism. The Wells Fargo Center is sure to be rocking, which is why I feel confident that the Sixers can pull this game out and head into the playoffs with the most momentum of any team in the NBA, oh, and a 16 game win streak sounds pretty cool too.
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Place: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: ESPN, NBCSP
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic