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Sixers close out first half of season with road win over the Bucks

The Sixers take down the defending champs.

Philadelphia 76ers v Milwaukee Bucks

George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished A Dream of Spring yet (he never will), but a dream might play out in front of Sixers’ fans eyes when Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey finally take the floor together in the coming days and weeks.

Tonight, the best player on the planet was everything Sixers fans dreamed he would be when the franchise drafted him eight years ago. The 2021 MVP runner-up took down the defending champions in a nationally televised game, as the Sixers beat the Bucks 123-120.

What a blast.

It was reasonable to dwell on how horrendous the Celtics thrashed the Sixers earlier in the week, but a win like this was the perfect palette cleanser before the Sixers head into the All-Star break, not taking the floor together again until next Friday in Minnesota.

I’m just riffing, baby. Here are some thoughts and observations from tonight’s victory:

  • Joel Embiid needs to be the MVP. Look, if for some ridiculous reason, I had an MVP vote last year I would’ve voted for Embiid. That’s obvious. Yes, it sucks he lost to Nikola Jokić then, but if history were to repeat itself this year, that’s just a disgraceful showing from the national basketball media. Embiid is even better this season! He’s 7-foot-2 and he’s adding Kobe Bryant and James Harden moves to his game. I know there is an inherent bias in me given the connection that Embiid has bred in Philly and that I’ve watched almost every game of his career, but I seriously try to step back and look at things objectively too. I just can’t fathom thinking someone is both performing better and more important to their respective team than Embiid is to the Sixers this season.
  • Harden’s impact is already being felt even if he hasn’t suited up for the Sixers yet. He spent tonight teaching Maxey his trademark grift, telling him to take it to the lane and get fouled and get to the line. Maxey responded by going for double-digits in the second quarter alone, on his way to 19 total points, leading to Harden himself showing him some respect. This video is going to get a lot of run on Sixers Twitter:
  • Doc Rivers’ lineups... Come on. These extended runs without both Maxey and Embiid on the court just go on for way too long. The addition of Harden needs to eradicate any lineups that don’t have at least one of the team’s three-best players on the court at all times. PLEASE.
  • Tyrese Maxey made all 10 of his free throws tonight. That’s the first time he’s ever gone 10-10 or better as a pro. A version of Maxey that’s increasingly getting to the line alongside the two guys who get fouled more than anyone in Embiid and Harden is going to make the Sixers’ offense so, so efficient.
  • Dads throughout the Delaware Valley are hoping that they could get Paul Millsap to show up for one of their old man runs because of his throwback post game. I’m still not sold yet that he should be their main backup big man for the postseason, but let’s see how the next couple of weeks play out.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is always going to get his numbers and he finished with 32-11-9, but Georges Niang defended him valiantly. It was a performance that made me optimistic that Niang can be a legitimate bench player in a shorter rotation come the playoffs if he can hold his own defensively like this. Niang can obviously knock down threes, as he went 5-10 from deep in Milwaukee, but not being run off the court on D in the postseason matters a ton too, as Sixers fans know all too well the last handful of years.
  • I, understandably so, wrecked Furkan Korkmaz in the recap of Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss to Boston. If you want to deal out negative takes, you have to be willing to give some praise too. Korkmaz has not been the bench sharpshooter the Sixers have needed him to be this season, but he excelled in that role tonight. He added 13 points off the bench and sank three of his four threes. Sixers fans can only hope that this version of Korkmaz is the one they get in the second half of the regular season and the playoffs, as his theoretical shooting ability would make for a great perimeter pairing with Harden.
  • DraftKings offered a profit boost on a same-game parlay tonight that called for Embiid to get 30 points, 12 rebounds and to make two threes. Embiid’s 42 and 14 with three threes more than did the job. I’m terrible at doing my own shops, so I’m glad they threw up an alley-oop for me to cash.