When Joel Embiid checked out of the game in the third quarter Tuesday night between the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, his team led 82-72 with 3:37 remaining in the period. It was mostly a back-and-forth game all night, but the Sixers got out to a double-digit lead and were in prime position to secure the win.
But then two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo rattled off the next 15 points for the Bucks to close the deficit to 91-87 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter. Embiid subbed back into the game shortly after Giannis’ ridiculous offensive outburst, but by that time Milwaukee already gained momentum leading this game to come down to the final possession. Giannis’ block on Embiid’s putback attempt, which initially was thought to be goaltending, secured the 118-116 comeback win for the Bucks, gave them a one-game lead in the East standings and the tiebreaker over the Sixers.
After the game, when asked what he thinks went wrong for the Sixers, Embiid pointed to Giannis’ 15-point run and the fact that Philadelphia had no answer to slow him down.
“The game really changed when I went on the bench,” Embiid said. “I didn’t think we did [a good enough job] at the end of that third quarter, beginning of the fourth. Their best player scored 17 points in a row or whatever that was. I didn’t think we did what we had to do. They made that run and they cut the lead, and they gained some momentum and it carried over.”
When asked what the Sixers could’ve done differently to slow down Giannis, Embiid said it didn’t help he was on the bench during Antetokounmpo’s entire run.
“I mean, I was on the bench the whole time,” Embiid said. “When I was on the floor, I really made sure I was always there to help. I thought we didn’t follow up that strategy, we didn’t build a wall, and he had a lot of freedom to just attack and get whatever he wanted. That changed the game. Maybe next time, just match up the minutes.”
Matching Embiid’s minutes with Antetokounmpo’s is Philadelphia’s best answer at trying to slow the reigning Finals MVP, because Doc Rivers’ plan to throw Paul Millsap at Giannis surely didn’t work. However, if these two teams face each other in the playoffs, I suspect Rivers implements that plan so that Philly doesn’t get exploited for its lack of size without Embiid.
Courtesy: CBS Sports