Giannis, Bucks Cruise Past 76ers with Joel Embiid out Due to Shoulder Injury

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 24, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbles during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston CelticsWednesday, March 24, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Three days after snapping a modest two-game losing streak in a win against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks beat them again 132-94 at the Fiserv Forum on Saturday afternoon. 

The Bucks knocked off the Sixers 124-117 on Thursday. They are now 1.5 games behind Philadelphia for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings with two weeks left in the regular season. 

Philadelphia is scuffling at the worst possible time. It has lost four straight games overall, but the schedule does lighten up with only three of its final 12 games against teams that currently have a winning record. 

The Sixers do have a legitimate excuse, as they have been without Ben Simmons for all four games of this streak due to a non-COVID illness. Joel Embiid was ruled out for this game with a sore right shoulder that he originally injured in Thursday's loss. 

It was apparent early on the 76ers offense was going to struggle without its two All-Stars. The Bucks held them to 17 points in the first quarter and 3-of-20 three-point shooting in the first half. They only shot 37.8 percent from the field for the entire game. 

With Doc Rivers using a small starting lineup, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a double-double by the end of the first half with 11 points and 12 rebounds. 

Notable Game Stats

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL): 24 points (9-of-12 FG), 14 rebounds, 7 assists
  • Jrue Holiday (MIL): 12 points (5-of-12 FG), 5 assists, 4 steals
  • Khris Middleton (MIL): 4 points (0-of-6 FG), 2 rebounds
  • Tobias Harris (PHI): 9 points (4-of-10 FG), 9 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Seth Curry (PHI): 13 points (5-of-11 FG), 3 rebounds
  • Dwight Howard (PHI): 12 points (5-of-8 FG), 12 rebounds

Giannis, Holiday Lift Bucks to Easy Win over Sixers

Even though the Bucks have won back-to-back games over a team ahead of them in the standings, there isn't a lot to celebrate about their performance from Saturday.

Khris Middleton was a non-factor on offense with four points. The two-time All-Star missed each of his six field-goal attempts. This was his first game without a made field goal since April 13, 2016 (0-of-3). 

With Middleton struggling to find his shooting form, Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and the bench did most of the heavy lifting for Milwaukee. The reigning two-time NBA MVP was a force in the paint against an undersized Sixers lineup.

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

OH. MY. GIANNIS!! https://t.co/QvmHucilu3

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

The reigning MVP is putting on a clinic. https://t.co/M9lu9SOiKW

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Glenn Robinson as the only players in Bucks history to score at least 12,000 points.

Holiday continued his stellar all-around play this season in Saturday's win. The 30-year-old tied his season-high with four steals.

Pat Connaughton remains a spark plug off the bench for head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Notre Dame alum's plus-27 in 21 minutes was tied with Holiday for the best plus-minus rating in the game. He scored 11 points, breaking the double-digit mark for the fifth time in the past seven games.

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

The Big Ragu with the putback slam!! https://t.co/q7lDMsCnlu

This was a game where the Bucks should have been able to have their way with an opponent. The Sixers are in a state of turmoil at the moment without Embiid and Simmons.

There were some sloppy moments early on before Milwaukee finally turned on the jets in the second half. The result was an easy win that closes the gap as it looks to surpass the 76ers for the No. 2 seed in the playoff race.


Undermanned Sixers Must Find Quick Fix

After spending most of the season in a race with the Brooklyn Nets for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers have hit their roughest stretch of the season at a bad time. 

Brooklyn is leading them in the overall standings by one game with Kevin Durant listed as probable to return for Sunday's game against the Phoenix Suns. 

The Bucks are only one game behind the Sixers in the loss column after Saturday's win. They also own the tiebreaker if the two teams finish the regular season with the same record by virtue of sweeping their three head-to-head matchups. 

Meanwhile, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has been careful not to speculate about when Simmons might be able to return. Embiid doesn't seem like he will miss an extended period of time. He did go through pregame warmups and was initially listed in the starting lineup before the team decided to hold him back. 

Tobias Harris is still rounding into form after sitting out three straight games prior to Thursday with knee soreness. He could only muster nine points on 4-of-10 shooting against the Bucks in just 26 minutes. 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

It's been a rough first half for the 76ers, scoring only 40 points, their fewest in any half this season. The biggest struggle came from deep. Of the 20 3-pt FG Philly attempted, 17 were contested (shot 2-17). Meanwhile, Milwaukee is 32-3 when leading at the half this season. https://t.co/BODLPEPRCH

Seth Curry played well during these two games in Milwaukee. He combined to shoot 9-of-17 from the field (5-of-8 from three) in the two losses. 

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

🎯 @sdotcurry 🎯 https://t.co/RlBpB4Z2M4

Philadelphia did show good fight into the third quarter. It cut Milwaukee's deficit to 55-54 thanks to a 10-0 run four minutes into the second half. 

From that point on, though, the Bucks outscored Philadelphia 77-40 over the final 20:36 of game time to turn what looked like it might be a tight game into a blowout. 

There's still time for the Sixers to turn things around before the postseason. Their schedule does ease up over the final two weeks with just three games against teams that currently have a winning record. 

Assuming Simmons and Embiid are able to return quickly, the Sixers still have a road to the No. 1 seed in the east. But that road has hit some speed bumps already with the potential for more along the way if their two stars continue to miss time. 

What's Next?

The 76ers will begin a three-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m. ET against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bucks start a four-game road trip Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Atlanta Hawks.