This may have been the craziest game I’ve seen in a while. While (perhaps former) MVP candidate Joel Embiid did not take part, the first marquee matchup between the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks—each winners of 9 of their last 10 games (with Philly on a 6 game win streak)—wasn’t a pretty one. But it was absolutely ridiculous. Amidst some more-consequential trade news, which seems like forever ago after this game, the Bucks scratched out a 109-105 signature win in overtime.
While it was overshadowed by not one but TWO trades, the first half was brutal and I hope we all can excise it from our memories soon. Both teams were sloppy (13 turnovers for the Bucks, 11 for the Sixers) and while Philly’s offense wasn’t crushing it, the Bucks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and made the Sixer defense look great. An 18 point first quarter was bad enough, but never think things can’t get worse, because they always can: the Bucks missed their first 10 shots en route to a mere 13 points in the second. Though their defense was solid, Milwaukee was an abysmal 1/17 from beyond the arc and shot just 25% going into halftime, trailing 45-31 in a very NCAA-ish score, masking Philly’s own offensive struggles.
The Bucks finally hit some 3s in the third and cut the lead to 11 with Giannis on the bench. The Freak returned and got cooking himself, powering the Bucks to a 34-point third (note: 3 more than they had at half), entering the fourth down 74-65. Some Pat Connaughton-fueled turnovers and buckets sparked a 13-0 Bucks run, and Milwaukee grabbed a 2 point lead with 8:18 to go. The next several minutes featured some rough, gritty, grungy old-school NBA basketball (i.e. both teams couldn’t score) and we were knotted at 80 for a whole 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Philly finally broke the drought, but the Bucks quickly answered with some HUGE triples from Brook Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jrue Holiday, allowing them to take a 7 point lead with 52.8 seconds left. Here is where I finished writing this recap, at first.
…but I had to press on! A questionable decision to go for a dagger lob with the shot clock off and 19 seconds left led to a Danny Green triple on the other end, cutting the lead to 1 with 11.5 left. Khris Middleton elected to take an easy bucket with 3 seconds left to go up 93-90 instead of passing to run the clock out, and though it’s hard to quibble with that decision, it resulted in a wide-open (thanks to DiVincenzo gambling for the steal off the inbounds pass and whiffing) game-tying 3 by Furkan Korkmaz with 1.1 left. That’s a 9-2 run in the last 40 seconds for Philly.
In OT, the Bucks learned their lesson. A 7-2 Giannis (not Bucks, Giannis) run—including a clutch three—put the Bucks again up 7 with 1:12 remaining in the extra period. While Ben Simmons tried to close that gap with a dunk and a made three (wait, what???), free throws from DiVincenzo and Holiday sealed a wild clutch with for the Bucks, who move to 1.5 games back of the 1-seed in the East.
Though he didn’t record his fourth-straight triple-double, Giannis Antetokounmpo was clearly the best player on the floor tonight, scoring 28 of his game-high 32 in the second half and a 4/4 OT to go with 15 boards and 5 dimes. Tobias Harris led the way with just 19 for Philly on a rough 8/23 shooting. Ben Simmons also put up a 13/12/10 triple-double in the loss.