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Sixers show plenty of fight but lose a thriller to Bucks

The Sixers fought back and took a second-half lead, but Damian Lillard made clutch plays down the stretch to give the Bucks a thrilling win.

Philadelphia 76ers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

It feels good to be back, right? Right?!

The Sixers kicked off the 2023-24 regular season falling just short of the Milwaukee Bucks 118-117 Thursday night. Tyrese Maxey led Philly with 31, but it was Kelly Oubre’s 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting on his first night as a Sixer that stole the show.

Joel Embiid was 9-of-21 from the floor and finished with 24 points, seven boards and six assists. Damian Lillard also impressed on his new team, leading all scorers with 39 points.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • Philly’s offense was understandably a bit choppy to start, with Embiid clearly still trying to play himself back into shape. Of course it didn’t help that the team began the game 1-of-7 from beyond the arc on decent shot selection. Embiid even struggled from the line going 1-of-4 from the stripe in the first.
  • Kelly Oubre was the lone Sixer to make a three in the first, scoring 10 of his 27 in his first quarter as a Sixer. Oubre and Danny Green were the first subs off the bench tonight rather early, replacing P.J. Tucker, who was mirroring Giannis, and Tyrese Maxey, who had picked up two fouls.
  • The James Harden-sized hole in this roster will really looks big on nights Maxey gets into foul trouble. While he was hot to start the game, Oubre brought the ball up the floor an alarming amount of times in the quarter. The Sixers trailed by seven after the opening quarter.

Second Quarter

  • Despite a cold start, Maxey went right back to attacking the basket when he checked back into the game, scoring Philly’s first seven points of the quarter. For now, Nick Nurse seems to prioritize staggering Embiid and Maxey rather than Maxey and other ball handlers like Melton and Patrick Beverley.
  • Jaden Springer has made it into the rotation, at least for now it would seem. He made an immediate impact on the defensive end, blocking a Khris Middleton three shortly after checking in. Shortly after that, he thoroughly denied Lillard on this lob attempt.
  • As impressive as that was for Springer, it only seemed to get Lillard going if anything. He had made just one field goal but ripped off 11 points after that block and forced Philly into taking a timeout. The Bucks held onto a nine-point lead at the half.

Third Quarter

  • For as much as Embiid continued to struggle from the free throw line, he was hitting jumpers from the field. A couple of threes from the top of the key helped the Sixers go on a 7-0 run and force a quick Bucks timeout.
  • The timeout properly halted Philly’s momentum. They would turn the ball over on four straight possessions coming out of it. Embiid was the high man in that category as well, finishing with seven on the night.
  • There wasn’t a ton of defense to speak of on either side through three quarters, but it wasn’t pretty either. Teams combined to shoot 53 free throws before the fourth. Another three-point barrage brought the Sixers closer again, this time led by Maxey and Oubre. They shot 5-of-9 from deep in the quarter as they cut the lead to three.

Fourth Quarter

  • Lost in everything Oubre did, Tobias Harris had himself quite the night, and also sparked the offense early in the final quarter. He finished the night with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
  • Oubre still does deserve the bulk of attention for his performance. He had the largest hand in the 12-0 run early in the fourth that saw Philly take their first lead since the beginning of the game. Simply put, he was everywhere.
  • It didn’t take long for the Bucks to counter with a run of their own. The Sixers’ struggles taking care of the ball didn’t go away, and they also continued to struggle keeping the Bucks off the free throw line. What leads the Sixers did hold this evening were very short lived.
  • Did it take a crazy Kelly Oubre performance to keep them in this game? Probably, but the Sixers made Milwaukee work for it for all 48 minutes. A three from Harris made it a two-point game again, but they just could not get the stop on Lillard that they needed.
  • The Sixers can bounce back quickly as they have a busy opening weekend. They’ll head to Toronto to take on the Raptors Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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