76ers

Latest version of Sixers shows how dangerous it is in win vs. NBA-best Bucks

Latest version of Sixers shows how dangerous it is in win vs. NBA-best Bucks

The last time the Sixers played the Bucks, it wasn’t pretty.

Back on Oct. 24, Milwaukee took control early and the game was a blowout. The Sixers’ starters that night: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz.

What a difference a few months and a couple blockbuster trades can make.

The Sixers’ new-look starting five, playing in just its seventh game together, turned in its finest performance with a 130-125 win in Milwaukee Sunday afternoon (see observations), clinching a playoff spot in the process.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a monster with 52 points, but Joel Embiid was no slouch with 40 of his own along with 15 rebounds and six assists.

“I think when you ask about Joel, the thing that most stood out to me was there was a fierce level of competitiveness that he played with tonight,” Brown said to reporters postgame. “It was at an A-level. It was at a playoff level. And the physical side of things — throwing his body into things — just was extremely competitive.”

In a game against the NBA’s best and in a fight for the East’s third seed, there was a playoff feel to this one.

There’s been a lot made of the Sixers’ inability to beat the Eastern Conference’s elite. Going into Sunday, the Sixers were just 1-7 against the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics — that one win coming against a depleted Toronto team.

But that was then and this is now. This team looks nothing like the first iteration Milwaukee saw. In what could’ve been a possible playoff preview, “Sixers 3.0,” as JJ Redick called it, turned in its most impressive win of the season.

“We had only played six games. Think of that number. Truly, think about that number,” Brown said. “And to play against one of the more consistent teams in the league — as it sits, best team in the NBA [and] the best defensive team in the NBA — and try to learn and grow our team and move it forward. 

“There’s some talent in that room, no doubt about it, but there’s no right to have a fluid side and a chemistry and a symmetry. They have no right to have that — not to anybody’s fault except the calendar. So growing that and be excited about that and trying to polish it up before the playoffs begin is our goal.”

That calendar now reflects that there’s less than a month to go before the postseason. There are 12 games — including the rubber match against the Bucks — left in the regular season. That doesn’t leave much time for Brown to figure out his newest starting unit.

But luckily for Brown, the most promising thing this starting lineup has shown is the willingness to play a selfless brand of basketball. While Embiid may be the “crown jewel,” there are four other players that are supremely gifted offensively.

On Sunday, it was Redick who sparked them early by hitting 7 of 10 shots and going a spotless 4 of 4 from three for 19 points. It was Jimmy Butler who continued his aggressive ways and played closer yet again with 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. It was Embiid being Embiid.

Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris weren’t spectacular, but they were efficient. Simmons was 4 of 8 for eight points, but also added nine rebounds and nine assists. Harris shot just for 4 of 7 for 12, but added seven boards and four dimes.

The beauty of having five guys as immensely talented as what the Sixers have is that you don’t need everybody to go off. 

“I think we have so many guys that score the ball in so many different ways that any given night somebody’s going to get hot,” Butler said. “You’re not going to be able to guard everybody. We do a good job of finding guys in spots where they’re comfortable — I think that’s the best part about our offense. 

“When the ball is moving around and of course when we’re playing defense, [we’re at our best]. But I think everybody is having fun and when you’re having fun, the basketball game is easy.”

If “Sixers 3.0” keeps this up, the rest of the Eastern Conference won’t be having very much fun.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers' Jimmy Butler and Nets' Jared Dudley fined for roles in Game 4 skirmish

Sixers' Jimmy Butler and Nets' Jared Dudley fined for roles in Game 4 skirmish

Updated: 7:36 p.m. 

Though an executive has been suspended for Game 5 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Nets — Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks, for entering the referees' locker room following Game 4 — both Jimmy Butler and Jared Dudley will be eligible to play.

Butler has been fined $15,000 for his part in Game 4’s third-quarter melee, while Dudley has been fined $25,000.

It’s hard to argue with the description that Dudley “escalated an on-court incident” by pushing Embiid after he took exception to his Flagrant 1 foul on the Nets’ Jarrett Allen. 

And though it’s difficult to imagine Butler or the Sixers simply accepting Dudley’s shove of their star center, the explanation that Butler “escalated it further” is accurate.

The league seems to be acknowledging Dudley played a more central role in the incident by giving him a larger fine. Unfortunately for the Sixers, both players received equal punishment on Saturday — ejections.

Embiid, appreciative of Butler sticking up for him, told reporters in Brooklyn Saturday night he would pay Butler’s fine. 

Embiid's foul on Allen will stand as a Flagrant 1, ESPN's Tim Bontemps reports. The Sixers' center still has two flagrant foul points in the playoffs and would receive a one-game suspension if he accumulated four points. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Nets general manager Sean Marks suspended one game, fined $25,000 for entering referees' locker room after Game 4

Nets general manager Sean Marks suspended one game, fined $25,000 for entering referees' locker room after Game 4

Updated: 7:58 p.m.

The Sixers might have felt aggrieved Saturday after the third-quarter confrontation that resulted in the ejections of Jared Dudley and Jimmy Butler, a trade-off that favored the Nets.

But, after the Sixers pulled off a 112-108 Game 4 win without Butler, it was a member of the Nets’ organization who wanted to see the referees.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has been suspended for Game 5 and fined $25,000 for entering the referees’ locker room after the game, the NBA announced Sunday.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Marks was upset over Joel Embiid's Flagrant 1 fouls in Games 2 and 4 not being adjudged Flagrant 2s. A Flagrant 2 foul is an automatic ejection.

Caris LeVert and Dudley had expressed their displeasure with Embiid laughing as he apologized postgame for his Game 2 elbow to Jarrett Allen's face. Embiid reiterated his apology before Game 3, saying he didn't mean to make light of the situation and that he'd texted Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to again let the Nets know he was sorry.

After his foul on Allen in Game 4 that kickstarted the scuffle which resulted in Dudley and Butler's ejections, Embiid immediately pointed to indicate he'd gone for the ball.

While Elton Brand will be watching at Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night as the Sixers look to advance to the second round, Marks will have to watch elsewhere as his team tries to bring the series back to Brooklyn. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers