Sixers win at Milwaukee can be a turning point

by Marc Narducci | Mar 6, 2023
Sixers win at Milwaukee can be a turning point
The NBA is a long season with plenty of ups and downs, but if the 76ers eventually win a championship this year, they can point to Saturday’s 133-130 win at Milwaukee against the first-place Bucks.
That snapped Milwaukee’s 16-game winning streak and more importantly showed the Sixers can beat what many consider the best team in the NBA on the road.
One can argue that the three top teams in the Eastern Conference – Milwaukee, Boston and the Sixers – could also be the three best teams in the NBA.
What made the win more impressive is that the Sixers trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter.
The Sixers big three of Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey combined for 96 points. When they are playing to this level, it’s difficult to find a better trio in the NBA.
Harden had 38 points and 10 assists and Embiid added 31 points and 10 assists. According to @nbamuse24, they became the first pair of teammates to record at least 30 points and 10 assists in a game since 1979 when Otis Birdsong and Phil Ford did it for the Kansas City Kings roster.
As for Maxey, it was the third game since coach Doc Rivers reinserted him into the starting lineup. In those three games, he averaged 27.3 points and was shooting .600 from the field and .529 from three-point range.

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The original thought behind putting him on the second unit was to give it more offense, but some players simply do better as a starter and Maxey appears to be the case. He should remain in the starting lineup.
The Sixers began the week with 19 games left and were 4.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. There is no question that the team that finishes first in the East among Milwaukee, Boston and the Sixers will have a major advantage. If the Sixers could somehow make up those 4.5 games, then they would be the favorites, because the second and third place teams will beat each other up in the second round.
Still, even without winning the division, the Sixers are good enough to win the NBA championship.
Embiid needs to stay healthy in the postseason, but if so, he can be dominant.
Harden, who never has had the reputation of a great postseason player, has changed his game around to complement Embiid. Harden is more of a playmaker, but as the 38-point scoring total showed, he still has the ability to light up the scoreboard.
Maxey brings energy and plenty of offense.
The Sixers will need the bench to be more consistent. Georges Niang, who had been playing poorly, shot 5-of-6 from three-point range against Milwaukee. While that type of performance can’t be expected every night, if he is hitting from the outside, it makes a world of difference.
The other reason the Sixers should be contenders is that they are so accurate from the foul line. Entering the week, they were leading the NBA in free throw percentage (.832). Beginning the week, all five starters were shooting over 80% from the foul line, led by Harden (.875).
The Sixers are 0-3 this season against Boston and 2-1 against Milwaukee. Despite the troubles with Boston, the Celtics aren’t invincible. The Sixers recent 110-107 loss at home to Boston, shows that they are close.
While the Sixers could be a championship contender, they could also be eliminated in the second round. Anything is possible, but they are not the big underdog that some may suggest.
They are right there with the best teams in the East, which means they are one of the top teams in the NBA, as the recent Milwaukee win demonstrated.

 

Photo courtesy: Philadelphia Sixers Twitter 


Author: Marc Narducci

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