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Sixers hang with defending champ Bucks but lose second straight

The Sixers took a lead into the fourth quarter, but the defending champs were able to come back for the win.

Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Hopefully, one night soon enough, we’ll be able to stop writing about “the shorthanded Sixers giving [insert opponent] all they could handle.”

Unfortunately, Tuesday night would not be that night.

The shorthanded Sixers gave the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks all they could handle, but fell 118-109 at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers are now 8-4.

With Seth Curry (left foot contusion) missing the game, the Sixers were down six players (seven if you include two-way player Grant Riller). Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Isaiah Joe remain in the league’s health and safety protocols. Doc Rivers did say pregame that Harris is feeling much better and that he expects the forward back sooner rather than later. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.

The Sixers will host the Toronto Raptors Thursday before embarking on a six-game road trip.

Here are a few takeaways from the game.

First half

  • Paul Reed was in an unenviable position having to guard two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the first possession, Reed and Drummond forced a jump ball against the Greek Freak. Both Reed and Drummond were very active early, a big part of the reason the Sixers played so well in the first.
  • Tyrese Maxey playing well while the Sixers are woefully shorthanded ... hmmmm sounds awfully familiar. Maxey was brilliant in the first quarter. He had a nice drive to his right and also hit a floater in the face of Antetokounmpo. He also made 3 of 4 from three, finishing the quarter with 17 points. How he’s doing this while playing all the minutes is beyond me. Sixers, somehow, led 39-30 after one.
  • Doc Rivers said after the Knicks loss that he had to play 10 guys Tuesday. Well, it looks like he lied. The Sixers have actually played eight so far, with Charles Bassey being the only new player in the lineup. Bassey checked in in the second quarter and actually made a pair of nice defensive plays at the rim.
  • So much for Georges Niang having tired legs. Niang started the game 4 of 4 from three. The Sixers shot the lights out to start the game, hitting 8 of their first 14 from beyond the arc.
  • It appeared shooting variance started to catch up to the Sixers midway through the second. That coincided with Giannis starting to get going.
  • But here come the Sixers. With the Bucks cutting the lead to two, Reed had a sensational block on Antetokounmpo, which led to a Maxey layup on the other end. The man they call Bball Paul can play. That 2020 draft continues to look masterful.

Antetokounmpo was just 5 of 12 for 13 points before halftime.

  • The Sixers’ offense started sputtering in a big way after a Milwaukee timeout, which allowed the Bucks to go in front. Furkan Korkmaz really struggled in the first half, going 1 of 10. Still, the Sixers hung in there, trailing 61-58. Maxey had 19 points. Shake Milton was solid with 11 points and three assists. Neither “point guard” had a turnover.

Second half

  • Rivers was forced to call a timeout 38 seconds into the second half after Milwaukee scored five quick and easy points. Not a great start.
  • Reed is actually doing an excellent job on Giannis. Got another block on him, but unfortunately flubbed the layup on the other end. It’s a night like this where you see the defensive potential and versatility Reed possesses.
  • This team simply will not go away. After Rivers unsuccessfully challenged a foul on Niang, it seemed to get the veteran forward fired up. He hit a three and then recorded a steal, which led to a Maxey basket on the other end, getting the Sixers back to within one. Niang is up to 19 points midway through the third and is challenging Antetokounmpo on defense.
  • Another step-back three from Maxey, who is up to 27 points. A great find by Korkmaz for a Danny Green corner three, followed by a stop and an outstanding outlet pass from Maxey to Andre Drummond, and this game is tied at 87-87 late in the third.
  • I’m not sure what more I can say about the job these Sixers have done. Drummond gets an offensive rebound, his 13th rebound of the night, off a Maxey miss and puts it back in. The Sixers take a 93-91 lead going into the fourth quarter.
  • Milton with a bounce-back performance. Great drive for an and-one to put the Sixers back in front. He’s up to 20 points and five assists. Milton and Maxey have combined for 47 points, nine assists and just one turnover.
  • Georges Niang is looking like the absolute biggest steal in free agency. He just pushed the ball up the floor after a Drummond rebound and finished through contact from Bobby Portis. He then gestured to the crowd to get louder and they obliged. Niang with 19 points and Sixers go up 100-99.
  • Giannis didn’t have his best night from the field but his gravity really stretched the Sixers’ defense. Grayson Allen is a big beneficiary with 20 points. Back-to-back threes from Portis and Pat Connaughton stretched the Bucks’ lead to 107-102.
  • An Allen corner three off a Giannis drive might just about do it. Bucks up 114-107. Korkmaz has had a night to forget, going 2 of 18 from the field and 1 of 12 from three. Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday really stepped up their defensive pressure down the stretch.
  • Tough loss for the Sixers. Maxey had 31 points and four assists. Milton with 20 points and six assists. Drummond with 17 points and 20 rebounds — his second straight 20-plus rebound performance. Niang finished with 21 points off the bench before fouling out.