The Sixers are back on the road for the first time since Feb. 6. They’re back in Milwaukee, too, and again set to play the team with the best record in the NBA.
Ben Simmons will be available after missing the Sixers’ overtime win Thursday over the Nets because of lower back soreness. Kyle Korver (back soreness) is out for Milwaukee.
Here are three storylines to watch for Saturday’s matchup between the 35-21 Sixers and 47-8 Bucks:
Antetokounmpo might be due
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Christmas performance against the Sixers was a major outlier, with his 8-for-27 shooting effort his worst of the year. He’s shot under 50 percent from the floor this season only 12 times.
Though Joel Embiid and Al Horford defended Antetokounmpo well on Christmas, the MVP has been far worse than his season average from three-point range in his two games against the Sixers, which suggests he might be due to hit a couple of the long range shots he'll presumably be invited to take. Antetokounmpo is 1 for 14 from three vs. the Sixers this year and a 30.9 percent three-point shooter overall. He put up 36 points and 20 rebounds in the Bucks’ last win over the Sixers despite going 1 of 7 beyond the arc.
‘Being the best player in the world’
Embiid, who was Antetokounmpo’s first pick in the All-Star draft, shot just 6 of 26 in that Feb. 6 game.
After an All-Star Game in which he scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and a dominant showing against the Nets that rescued the Sixers, Embiid is feeling good about himself.
The All-Star Game was fun, being there in the fourth quarter, doing my thing at the end of the game,” he said Thursday night. “I thought it was great. The game against the Clippers was a good starting spot. But the All-Star Game is just proving that I’m here — I belong, and being the best player in the world. I just intend to keep coming out every single night, just play hard and try to get wins. Go hard and try to win a championship.
Embiid no longer has to wear the splint on his hand that appeared to affect him in the Sixers’ second meeting against Milwaukee.
“I’ve been struggling a lot at the free throw line the past couple games, especially with that splint,” he said Thursday after making 18 of 19 foul shots. “It was a good relief to have it off.”
‘I call him A-Buckets’
While Glenn Robinson III started against the Nets, Brett Brown preferred Alec Burks and Shake Milton in the second half and overtime. Burks scored 19 important points, 16 after halftime, and Robinson was happy to see him show what he’d been doing with the Warriors before the two were shipped to Philadelphia.
“I was up on the bench cheering for him, excited for him,” Robinson said Friday. “I know that’s what he can bring to any team that he’s on. He tried to say that to the media when he first got here — it doesn’t matter where you’re at. Especially if you’re in a position where we’re fighting for our careers. We don’t have a contract after that.
“Wherever you are … it’s tough to play well if you’re thinking about so many different things. So, I was excited for him, happy that he went off [Thursday] night. But yeah, that’s AB. I call him A-Buckets.”
Brown said Thursday he’s willing to let competitions play out for the final spots in his playoff rotation, and Burks made a strong impression on him, especially with his pick-and-roll playmaking (see story).
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