The Philadelphia 76ers hope to avoid a fourth consecutive loss Saturday afternoon when they battle the host Milwaukee Bucks for a second consecutive game.
The Sixers (39-20) dropped their third in a row in a 124-117 loss to the Bucks on Thursday. Ben Simmons didn’t travel to Milwaukee, missing his third game because of an illness, and his availability was uncertain for Saturday.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers noted that the demands of the recent schedule have been extraordinarily difficult.
“Where it really hurts us is on the back end of this,” Rivers said. “You don’t have a lot of time to recover. We play again at 3:30. I was disappointed when I saw it because to me, what it told me, they didn’t think we would be where we would be. That was my thought.
“But it is what it is. We got to suck it up man and we’ll be ready Saturday.”
The Bucks have won the first two meetings against the Sixers in the three-game series this season and would hold a playoff tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.
Milwaukee sits two-and-a-half games behind the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Embiid scored 24 points, but the Sixers already appeared tired during Thursday’s loss.
“Everybody seemed fatigued,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it was just Joel. I would love to say Joel played better than most of the guys. I just felt that we were late on everything. We were soft tonight defensively. That first quarter, they got every shot they wanted and we didn’t put much resistance up.”
The Bucks started red hot by hitting their first 10 shots, sank 20 3-point shots in the game and then held on late for a seven-point win. The final score was deceiving since the Bucks (36-22) dominated from the early going.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 27 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, Khris Middleton scored 24 points and Bobby Portis knocked down five treys on his way to 23 points off the bench.
But the Bucks are fully aware that defeating the same team twice in three days will be a difficult challenge.
“It’s hard to beat a team two times in a row,” Middleton said. “Especially when you got that same opponent back-to-back. We definitely got to expect a dogfight on Saturday when we play them again. I’m sure they’re going to go back and look at their film and see what they did wrong and see what they need to do more of.”
The Bucks won’t always shoot 14 of 19 in the first quarter like they did on Thursday. It was more than simply making shots. Their offensive rhythm was in sync and their defensive intensity was noticeable from the opening tip.
“We moved the ball,” Antetokounmpo said. “Guys were finding the open guy. We played downhill. Knocking down shots. Everybody set the tone.”
Receiving an unexpected lift from Portis, who made five 3-pointers, opened up the lane.
“It just felt like Bobby was the guy who kept the separation,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He got really hot. That was big.”
–Field Level Media
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