Despite another strong attempt at cuts, the Sixers’ back-to-back ended up with nothing more than moral victories.
They fell to the Bucks at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, 118-109, falling to 8-4 on the season.
Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 20 rebounds, while Shake Milton gave the Sixers 20 points and six assists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Seth Curry missed Tuesday’s game due to a left foot contusion. Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo were injured.
Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe remained in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said before the game that Harris is “doing a lot better” and should be back sooner rather than later.
The Sixers will complete their three-game homestand against the Raptors on Thursday. Here are comments on their loss to the Bucks:
Maxey’s sensational start
Maxey conceded five early points to former teammate George Hill, but it didn’t take long to exceed that total on the other side.
He exploded for 17 in the first quarter on 7-for-9 shooting, beating confident jumpers, layups and a floater. The Sixers need players to find their own opportunities without Embiid and Harris. Even with so many minutes under his belt in the past few days, Maxey didn’t hesitate to embrace that job.
Perhaps there is something about these brief situations that brings out the best in Maxey, who scored 39 points for the seven-man Sixers against the Nuggets last season.
You don’t have to worry about putting off stars, dividing the ball evenly or playing like a ‘true point guard’. Just trust his talent and try to make good things happen despite the manpower disadvantage. If he can carry over a bit of that mentality when the team is at full strength, that would be great for the Sixers.
“Of course I had to be more aggressive than usual tonight,” he said after the game. “I don’t think tonight was really a confidence building for me. I honestly think my confidence comes from working out in the gym. I feel pretty confident in my shot because I put the time into it. Even if it doesn’t fall or even when they go down I feel like I’m going to get the shot because of the work I put into it.
Maxey cooled off after the first and the jumper dependent Sixers struggled to string the baskets together as a whole mid-game.
Never shy to shoot, Furkan Korkmaz went 2 for 18 from the floor (1 for 12 from three point range). His highs are high, and the lows can be extreme at times.
As for Maxey, scoring wasn’t the only quality he brought out on Tuesday. He put in an incredibly high-flying block with two hands on Pat Connaughton in the third quarter. No Sixers regular is 100 percent, but Maxey made a convincing impression of a well-rested player.
B Ball Paul vs. The Greek Freak
Paul Reed, last season’s G League MVP as a rookie, matched a two-time NBA MVP in Antetokounmpo. He was joined by Maxey, Milton, Korkmaz and Andre Drummond in the Sixers’ starting line-up when Danny Green came off the bench in his second game after a three-game absence with a strained left hamstring.
Offensively, Reed started brilliantly. His first quarter included a mid-range jumper, a rising put-back dunk and a lay-up after pumping a corner three fake.
The other end of the floor was challenging, but Reed was determined to keep Antetokounmpo from making an easy foul. He made a mistake on him with a fadeaway jumper in the second quarter – a call he vehemently objected to – but otherwise avoided risky gambling or overzealous contact quite well. Against Antetokounmpo, that’s generally the best you can do. He’s a special player and Reed should learn from what worked (and what didn’t) on him.
“I was thinking well overall,” Rivers said of Reed’s defense. “I thought in the second half he kept playing him on the side. And playing Giannis on the side is like water – he just went through him. And that’s what we were talking about. He kept doing it. And it did. him not so often in the first half.
“You have to play Giannis square, let him go through your chest. If he gets you out of the way it’s over and Giannis grabbed the moment and did a lot in the second half.”
In 23 minutes, Reed finished with six points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Hold on to eight
While Rivers promised a 10-man rotation after Monday’s loss to the Knicks, he ended up using eight, without hiring rookies Jaden Springer and Aaron Henry against the defending champion.
Big man Charles Bassey, the Sixers’ other active rookie, checked in for Drummond and played four minutes into the second quarter. He made an impressive weak block on Antetokounmpo during that stretch, a move that led to a three-pointer from Milton that gave the Sixers a 48-35 lead.
After Drummond’s return, things went downhill for the Sixers. He missed two inside shots and made poor turnovers during a 10-0 Milwaukee run. Despite a brief stoppage highlighted by a Reed block on Antetokounmpo, the Bucks firmly regained momentum towards halftime and maintained a 61-58 lead at the break.
Especially in this spot – on a depleted squad of small guards – Drummond seems to be out to get at least the “teens” in rebounds every game. He creates space, anticipates sharply and is sure to grab the ball when it is near him. Other elements of his game aren’t nearly as reliable, but he’s never lost his exceptional rebounding skills.
Georges Niang was fantastic as a shooter, beating his first five three-pointers and scoring 21 points, but much less successful when faced with the impossible task of defending Antetokounmpo. Niang fights and clearly hates being picked, but few players are well equipped to guard Antetokounmpo, who hit another gear in the third quarter.
The Sixers tried to limit Antetokounmpo’s scoring chances at the last minute, but he was content to kick the ball to the open man. A late Grayson Allen corner three of an Antetokounmpo pass pretty much sealed the win for Milwaukee.