The Bucks entered the Wells Fargo Center with the best record in the NBA and the top MVP candidate of the season to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 76ers are not interested in anything.
Philadelphia ran the Milwaukee off the floor Wednesday afternoon, traveling to a 121-109 victory behind an amazing performance by Joel Embiid, who finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Nearly every Sixers player shot well from outside, as Philly went 21 of 44 from 3-point range (47.7 percent) against defending league champions.
Milwaukee has never had the opportunity to overcome a significant deficit. The Bucks found themselves under 21 points after just 24 minutes of action, the team’s biggest deficit with coach Mike Budenholzer. Antetokounmpo was off the pitch for the whole game and his supporting cast could not get enough.
Here are three takeaways from the Christmas Eve of the Six Bucks Christmas.
This is the top of Joel Embiid
The All-Star center set the tone early with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the first half. He wrote in color, from the middle and beyond the bow.
Even more impressive than his performance was his defense. It has continually annoyed Antetokounmpo on the brink and forced him into hard work, with no slight mistreatment, as “Greak Freak” averaged 31.0 points per game at 56.6 percent before Wednesday’s loss.
These stampedes in transition usually result in easy dunks for Antetokounmpo. That’s not the case with Embiid waiting in the paint.
“I want to be a defensive player of the year and I feel like I did it tonight,” Embiid said after the game.
Embiid was just unstable in offense and a brick wall in defense. He brought himself as the best player on the planet.
Yannis Antecunduba had a very bad Christmas Day
As mentioned above, Antetokounmpo struggled against Embiid, scoring just 18 points in 8-of-27 shooting from the field. While Giannis made great strides with the jump, he was 0-of-7 on 3-pointers against the 76ers. His defenders were eager to avoid him and wait for him in color.
To make matters worse, John only took four trips to the free throw line, a significant drop from his season average of 10.5. He did not receive a friendly whistle, and his disappointment came in the fourth quarter when he was hit by Sixers guard Josh Richardson and did not hear a whistle – until later he received a technical foul on a referee.
But while Philadelphia defended Antetokounmpo by more than four quarters better than any team this season, let’s not use a national television dud to label Giannis and the Bucks a scam. He has the right to have a game away, and you better believe this will stick to his mind until he faces the 76ers again.
Sixers + Shooting = scary
Philly is not known for its resistance to shooting, but the 76ers burned the nets in that contest.
They started 6-of-13 from 3-point range in the first quarter and 11-of-22 in the first half. They failed to cool down under the stretch, tying a franchise record with 21 three-point buckets as a team, including a team of five senior teams from Tobias Harris.
The distance between the Sixers will never be perfect, as Embiid and Ben Simmons share the stadium, but enough shooting from kids like Harris, Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz can change the whole offense and open the floor.