The Sixers enter their two-game mini-series in Milwaukee a half-game ahead of the Nets and 3.5 ahead of the Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings.
Here are the essentials for Game 1:
- When: 7 p.m. ET
- Where: Fiserv Forum
- Broadcast: TNT
And here are three storylines to watch:
For both the Sixers and Bucks, their last game was a close loss to Phoenix. Milwaukee has been home waiting for the Sixers since Devin Booker’s game-winning free throw Monday night with 0.3 seconds left in overtime.
“It’s funny,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday, “one of their coaches on Phoenix walked up to me before the game and said, ‘You guys play us and Milwaukee, and they haven’t played since us? That’s insane.’ I said, ‘Well, we just got the rub of the green on this one.’ But we’re going to try to get out of here quickly. We’re going to rest all day. Hopefully, we’ll be ready for tomorrow. And then after that, we get a day off. Then we play an afternoon game, I think it is. So clearly it’s a disadvantage, but what are we going to do? We’re going to show up and try to win them both. That’s our goal.”
The Sixers and Milwaukee are each looking to snap two-game losing streaks.
Ben Simmons (illness) will remain sidelined against Milwaukee, while Furkan Korkmaz is also out after spraining his right ankle vs. Phoenix. Tobias Harris and Seth Curry will return to the Sixers' starting lineup. They'll be joined by George Hill, Danny Green and Joel Embiid, who will play on the second night of a back-to-back.
‘We’ll see these guys again’
Remember Giannis Antetokounmpo’s overtime celebration in this season’s first Sixers-Bucks meeting?
We’re assuming Dwight Howard does. Here’s what Howard had to say after Antetokounmpo sat on the Wells Fargo Center floor following a clutch shot to seal the Bucks’ comeback win on March 17:
“I wanted to go and Stone Cold stunner him, but I already had one tech. It’s basketball. He wants to have fun, but we’ll see these guys again. We don’t want to make a big scene about what he did. Today we allowed them to get back in the game so what he did, we can’t control that. He had a hell of a game. He made some tough shots at the end of the game — reigning MVP. He had a great game. I’m not one to talk trash or say anything negative, but we’ll see them again and it’ll be a different result.”
Antetokounmpo had 32 points in the game — 28 after halftime — in addition to 15 rebounds and five assists. He turned the ball over four times and shot 2 for 8 from the floor when defended by Simmons. The Bucks tried to avoid that matchup when possible by screening for Antetokounmpo and forcing switches.
Who closes it out?
Shake Milton has played 50 games this year. His two worst in terms of field goal percentage? His last two. Milton also totaled seven turnovers in the Sixers’ losses to Golden State and Phoenix.
The idea of George Hill enhancing Milton’s game sounds reasonable enough, but it obviously hasn’t come to fruition quite yet. Hill was good in his second game as a Sixer, posting 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, two assists and no turnovers. Rivers closed Wednesday’s game with Hill on the floor alongside Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle and Joel Embiid.
“Defensively, we have a chance down the stretch of games to get stops,” Rivers said. “It comes down to single possessions. When you have a team like that … the good news with that group is they can all score, too. Matisse is more of a cutter but everybody else can score for us in different ways. It’s not a bad group, that’s for sure.”
Playoff rotations clearly aren’t finalized given the Sixers’ injury situation, but it’ll be interesting to monitor who the team uses at the end of tight games, especially against strong opposition like the Bucks.