Joel Embiid called it a “big-time freaking win."
The 76ers (41-22) went into Milwaukee on Saturday night and pulled off an 18-point comeback against the Bucks (45-18), who were on an NBA season-best 16-game winning streak and held a 27-5 home record prior to tipoff.
Next, the Sixers continue their five-game road trip (2-1) by visiting the Indiana Pacers (29-36).
Embiid and James Harden each posted at least 30 points along with 10 assists in the 133-130 victory in Milwaukee. Harden led all scorers with a season-high 38 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter.
“Every game for us is a playoff game, literally,” Harden said postgame.
The Pacers enter the upcoming matchup following a dramatic win over their own. In the front end of a road-home back-to-back, they were in Chicago on Sunday afternoon and came away with a 125-122 win on a deep, game-winning 3-pointer from their All-Star Tyrese Haliburton.
Haliburton notched a 29-point, 11-assist double-double, and the Pacers’ bench came through with 57 points as a unit. Zach LaVine scored a game-high 42 points for the Bulls in defeat.
Aaron Nesmith (left hip soreness) and Kendall Brown (right tibia stress fracture) did not play for Indiana. Sixers Tobias Harris (left calf contusion) and P.J. Tucker (back spasms) were both listed as questionable on the injury report as of Sunday evening after leaving the Bucks game early.
The first two games of the season series between the Sixers and Pacers went to the former, the home team in South Philadelphia on both occasions (Oct. 24 and Jan. 4). Harden posted 29 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists in the first meeting, plus 26 points and eight assists in the second.
Jumping back to Saturday, the Bucks led the Sixers 99-85 after three quarters. Grayson Allen knocked down six 3-pointers for the home team in the third quarter alone.
The Sixers then scored 48 points in the final frame. Georges Niang delivered clutch three after clutch three in crunch time, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in the quarter. Harden and Embiid each swished improbable treys in the final minute-and-change.
“We just kind of hung in there,” 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers said of the comeback. “I thought the second group tonight - in both stretches - in the second quarter, I thought they came in and gave us life and energy. And then in the fourth quarter, I thought that group saved the game for us. Jalen [McDaniels], Paul Reed, James [Harden], Shake [Milton], Georges [Niang].”
“I'm very comfortable in those situations,” said Harden. “Whether it's playmaking, whether it's scoring. I've been doing it for a long time. That's just me, out there, playing basketball. I put the work in. I work on it every single day at practice and the results show.”
Add Tyrese Maxey to a group with Harden and Embiid and the trio combined to score 95 points in the victory. Maxey himself has scored 105 points over the last four games.
“Tyrese is a bundle of energy,” said teammate Jalen McDaniels. “He's going to get downhill. He's going to hit his shots. And, you know, one thing I've noticed about him is he never loses confidence. He's just going to keep going.”
The Sixers will face another quick turnaround to close out their five-game road trip, traveling to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Monday’s game in Indiana is a 7 p.m. ET tipoff.
Saturday’s Top Performances:
“There's highs, there's lows, and there's just – you're trying to make 40-percent of your [threes],” Niang said postgame. “I don't ever try to get too high. This game can drain some people. I just try to be me and show up and do what I do every day.”
Quotes to Note:
Tyrese Maxey on his recent scoring stretch…
“Joel [Embiid] had a talk with me, talking about how I need to be aggressive. And that's what I go out there and do.”
Embiid on how Maxey responded to the conversation…
“Man, he's been great. I think he's – not necessarily learning, but I think he's trying to balance it out. I keep reminding him that being aggressive doesn't mean always shooting the ball... We need him to be that guy because we're going to need him in those positions. So, it's great. I mean, after I'm done playing basketball, I'm going to be a motivational speaker I guess.”
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