PHILADELPHIA -- Two Eastern Conference contenders went head-to-head when the Philadelphia 76ers hosted the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. Heading into the matchup the Sixers held the top seed in the East, while the Bucks were just 2.5 games behind them in the third spot. Both teams have been playing great ball as of late. Entering the evening, the Sixers had won eight of their last 10 games, while Milwaukee went 9-1 over that same span.
The meeting was the first of three between the two teams on the season, and they will meet again for two games in Milwaukee at the end of April. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the Sixers weren't at full strength for the meeting on Wednesday night, as All-Star center Joel Embiid remains sidelined with a bone bruise in his left knee. The Sixers put up a valiant effort without Embiid and even forced overtime, but ultimately they weren't able to keep up with Milwaukee, and the Bucks pulled out a 109-105 victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee, and he finished the game with 32 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo also both added 19 points apiece for the Bucks. Tobias Harris led the way for Philadelphia with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. It's tough to take too much from this game, as the Sixers were without their best player, but nonetheless here are three takeaways from Milwaukee's win over Philadelphia.
- Giannis overcomes slow start to propel Bucks to victory
Things didn't go well for Giannis Antetokounmpo early on in this game. At halftime, the reigning MVP had as many points (4) as turnovers, and he was shooting just 25 percent from the floor. At one point early in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo even had more airballs than made field goals in the game.
Giannis has more airballs than made field goals so far.— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) March 18, 2021
That shifted quickly, as Antetokounmpo flipped a switch and completely took the game over in the second half. He scored nine points in the third quarter and another nine in the fourth while simultaneously increasing his efficiency from the floor. In overtime, Antetokounmpo scored 10 of Milwaukee's 16 points and he punctuated his play by taking a seat on Philadelphia's floor.
If you looked at Antetokounmpo's final stat line -- 32 points (on 13 of 22 from the field), 15 rebounds, and 5 assists – you wouldn't guess that he had such a slow start. Antetokounmpo's name has started popping up in the MVP conversation as of late, and this performance certainly won't hurt his case.
2. This was a defensive battle
For people who like defense, this was the game for them, as both teams played dominant defense over the course of the contest. The Bucks held the Sixers to 39 percent shooting from the floor and 34 percent from beyond the arc, while the Sixers returned the favor and held the Bucks to 40 percent from the field and just 23 percent from deep. They even held Milwaukee to just 31 total points in the first half – their lowest total of the season. The game also had a total of 42 turnovers – Philadelphia forced 22, and Milwaukee forced 20. Ultimately, it came down to which team could overcome the other team's tough defense and come up with a few baskets down the stretch, and it was the Bucks that were able to make more shots in the fourth quarter and overtime while the Sixers struggled to generate good looks without Embiid.
3. Korkmaz comes up clutch for Philly
The Sixers didn't end up winning the game, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the clutchness of Furkan Korkmaz. The Sixers needed a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime with three seconds remaining, and Korkmaz drilled a big one. Donte DiVincenzo gambled on the inbounds pass, which left Korkmaz wide open in the corner. He caught the pass, set his feet, and calmly knocked down the shot.
This isn't the first time that Korkmaz has hit a big shot for Philadelphia. You may recall him also hitting this game-winning 3-pointer against the Trail Blazers in Portland a couple of years ago:
It didn't result in a victory for Philadelphia on Wednesday night, but Korkmaz clearly has some ice in his veins.