Tonight, the Sixers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, 118-116.
For your recap, here is a running diary of my thoughts on the game, quarter-by-quarter:
Q1: Fully healthy Sixers team, fully healthy Bucks team, MVP implications, standings implications, should be a great one. Famous last words, but still, here’s hoping. Tobias is guarding Giannis. Gulp. Five straight from Harden — an and-one and then he finally went to his floater and converted. Then he takes Middleton off the dribble and gets all the way to the cup and lays it in. Middleton with nine already for Milwaukee. Sixers’ offense has completely slowed, 14-0 Bucks run. Sixers turning it over a bunch. Joel 1-of-6 to start. Huh. Your backup center tonight is Paul Millsap, not DeAndre Jordan. It does make sense, as the Bucks are essentially playing Giannis at center at the moment (Jordan would’ve been even more of a disaster than usual). What a quarter from Harden. He nails a stepback three and gets fouled by his old nemesis, Giannis. That’s gotta feel good. 27-24, Bucks.
Q2: Millsap is looking active so far. He just tried to pump and drive past Giannis though, and it went about how you’d expect. Green has given the Sixers good minutes after relieving Thybulle, who had an extremely rough start. Sixers have been able so far to withstand a poor shooting start from Embiid, and they take the lead with 7:00 left in the half before we ride the seesaw. 6-of-12 from three so far. Maxey is a blur. Joel’s first free throws of the game come with 5:32 left in the half. Sixers extend the lead to eight thanks to a long-range pass from Harden to Thybulle. Harden up to 16 after a side-step three, he looks excellent, and Joel is heating up, he’s up to 13. Really nice response by the Sixers to some swarming defense by Milwaukee to start the game. 61-51, Sixers.
Q3: The Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll has been absolutely dominant since the moment Harden debuted for Philly. Harden nails another three, Lopez has 11 points in just over two minutes after halftime. Sixers have been taking Milwaukee’s best shot, it seems, but hanging in there impressively. After started 1-of-8, Embiid has looked fantastic. Great job by the big man to keep his head in the game. Really great minutes from Danny Green in this one. Embiid went out, Millsap came in, and Giannis has gone on a run. Bucks cut the deficit to six. Harden barrels to the rim and gets fouled. Then he does it again after juking Middleton. 89-81, Sixers.
Q4: Tobias, Maxey + bench unit starts the fourth with Giannis on the court for Milwaukee. Important stretch here. Flagrant foul on Green is not how you want to start it. Sixers’ lead is down to four. Make it two, Joel at the scorer’s table. Timeout Sixers. This has not been a game where Doc Rivers should have been staggering in this fashion — Milwaukee is simply too good to think you can play them without one of Harden or Embiid on the court at all times. Bucks take the lead with nine minutes left, Harris gets it back for the Sixers, Lopez right back for Milwaukee, Embiid answers with a three of his own, back and forth, oh my. This one is gonna come down to the wire, Embiid is on a mission. Bucks go up five with 5:43 left. Niang has missed a bunch of open threes. Huge three from Harden. Harris has really gone cold in this quarter. Finally Niang nails a three, two-point game, 3:10 left. Enormous Embiid three puts the Sixers only down one with 40 seconds left. Then a Harris steal. Sixers ball. Down one. 30 seconds left. Heart palpitations. Embiid’s jumper rims out, 13 seconds left. Giannis going to the line. He makes one of two. Sixers down two. They call a goaltend on Giannis on the court that ought to get overturned, it is. Jump ball. 1.6 on the clock. Ugh. Painful loss. 118-116, Bucks.