Game Review | Bucks Prevail in Wild, Back-and-Forth Game
It was a game that featured a ridiculous start, and later a staggering turnaround, with swings dramatic enough to cause whiplash.
By the end of the night, the 76ers were on the wrong side of momentum, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks, 118-110, at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The loss cost the Sixers a chance to move into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, after the Indiana Pacers, now fourth in the East, knocked off the Washington Wizards earlier Sunday evening.
Instead, with the setback to Milwaukee, the Sixers’ lead over the Bucks for sixth place in the standings was trimmed to a half game.
Despite leading by as many as 20 points in Sunday’s first quarter, and 19 points early on in the third, the Sixers couldn’t hang on. Turnovers were the culprit, with the Sixers committing 26 of them, which combined to result in 36 extra points for Milwaukee.
“You see teams just crawl into our chins,” Brett Brown said afterwards. “How we react and respond is going to be a key influence to how successful we are.”
Once the Deer hit their stride, the Sixers couldn’t slow them down. Nevertheless, the visitors managed to make quite the entrance.
Eleven minutes into Sunday’s high-stakes contest, the Sixers were blowing the doors off Milwaukee, plain and simple. Fueled by hundreds of vocal fans cheering in their favor, the Sixers exploded out of the gates, needing just 97 seconds to establish a 10-0 edge.
From there, the margin only got bigger, ballooning to 33-14 with four minutes to go in the period, and 41-21 with 68 seconds left.
By the end of the first, it was all Sixers, 43-31, having shot an #onbrand 76 percent from the field.
Midway through the second quarter, Milwaukee began chip away. The Sixers’ turnovers started to pile up, and a the Bucks delivered a 20-8 surge to tie the score at 51-51.
The Sixers answered in kind, closing the half on a 13-6 tear that gave them a 72-60 lead at intermission.
The break didn’t have much of an effect on the Sixers’ groove. Ignited by Ben Simmons (12 pts, 5 reb, 15 ast), the club pieced together a 9-2 run to begin the third quarter. The Sixers then went ahead 86-72 on a Saric 3-pointer with six minutes, 32 seconds to go in the period.
After that, Milwaukee was the only team that did any scoring.
With All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo (35 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast) spearheading a massive comeback attack, the Bucks ended the third quarter by ripping off 21 unanswered points, going up 93-86.
The Sixers cut the deficit to four, 102-98, with seven and a half minutes left, but Milwaukee had one last push left, a 10-0 run that put Sunday’s tilt out of reach.
“We just kept turning the ball over,” said Simmons, who Sunday became the first NBA player since 1963-1964 to register 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, and 400 assists in his first 61 games. “We got to execute, and we got to take care of the ball.”
In the Sixers’ loss, Joel Embiid accounted for 19 points (6-12 fg, 7-10 ft), 8 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. JJ Redick tacked on 17 points, while Marco Belinelli supplied 10.
For the majority of Sunday’s first quarter, it was as if the Sixers could do no wrong. Their start was as flawless as it was inspired, as the club came out raring to go on both sides of the ball.
On Milwaukee’s opening possession, Robert Covington came up with a block, which led to a Joel Embiid lay-up.
The Bucks’ next trip down, Covington pried away a steal, the set-up for a Dario Saric 3-pointer.
Two more Milwaukee misses would precede back-to-back JJ Redick baskets, a driving reverse and 3-pointer, respectively.
Unable to stop the Sixers themselves, the Bucks were forced to call timeout, at that point trailing 10-0, with 10 minutes, 23 seconds still to be played in the first quarter.
On Milwaukee’s end, it would be a while before things got better.
The Sixers sunk their first 10 shots of Sunday’s wild affair, and eventually assumed a 20-point lead.
Amidst all that was going right for the Sixers, Dario Saric was particularly excellent. Not only did the Croatian set the tone in hair-on-fire fashion, he finished the first quarter a perfect 6 for 6 from the field, posting 15 points and a plus-16 rating.
“I think we tried to play fast,” Saric said of the Sixers’ approach in the early stages of Sunday’s game. “We started out unbelievable - sharing the ball, everybody getting touches.”
As Sunday’s match-up moved along, the Sixers gradually lost steam, according to Saric, a development that, in his view, manifested itself the most on the defensive end.
“This is one of those games when you play against teams that are similar to you, and you lose. We still have an opportunity to play them one more time.”
The finale of the four-game series is set for April 11th at The Center, game no. 82 out of 82 on the regular season docket.
From start to finish, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force to be reckoned with, but it was during Sunday’s third quarter that he imposed his will the most.
On the court for all 12 minutes of the period, the two-time All-Star used an array of drives and dunks (plus a jump shot) to pump out 14 of the Bucks’ 33 total points in the frame. He scored 6 points on the break, and 4 more points off turnovers.
Antetokounmpo also assumed a key role in revving up Milwaukee’s defensive intensity. The Bucks forced the Sixers into 9 turnovers in the third.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Dario Saric, who was part of the multiple defensive looks the Sixers gave the Greek Freak.
Throughout the evening, the Sixers switched on Antetokounmpo, doubled-teamed him, and sent help. The 23-year old was too much.
“He is an All-Star player,” Saric said, “and of course, it’s hard to guard him. In the future, I think we can find a way to guard him. No one is unstoppable.”
Matching the outrageous nature of the Sixers’ start to Sunday’s game was the impassioned support the team received from hundreds of loyal fans who trekked to BMO Harris Bradley Center to (very vociferously) cheer on their squad.
Even in the aftermath of a tough loss, as they were preparing to leave the arena, several prominent members of the Sixers’ traveling party took a moment to acknowledge the impressive turnout.
Your fans could never. pic.twitter.com/0PWsCqAfYC
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 5, 2018
It was an insane start to Sunday’s opening quarter, a burst out of the gates for the Sixers that featured plenty of prime choice highlights. This basket prompted Milwaukee’s first timeout of the night, which came just 97 seconds into regulation.
Down it goes for @JJRedick.
Squad started the game on a run. pic.twitter.com/OdTDIZ7PGU
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 5, 2018
Hey! It’s you again!
After meeting just last Friday at The Center, the Sixers and Charlotte Hornets will link up Tuesday, this time at Spectrum Centre in North Carolina. In the first pairing between the teams, the Sixers outscored Charlotte 36-19 over the final 12 minutes of play, en route to a 110-99 victory. The Sixers and Hornets will square off once more this month, on March 19th in Philadelphia, before a fourth and final bout scheduled for April 1st in Charlotte.