The Milwaukee Bucks started the game on a 10-0 run in the opening minutes and never looked back, cruising to a 124-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at home.
Behind some hot shooting and 27 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have now closed to within 2.5 games of Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Nets for the critical No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Let's dive into some of the takeaways.
Portis explodes to end the third
Leading by double-digits for most of the night, a slight tinge of anxiety filled the limited crowd in Milwaukee when Tobias Harris sunk a jumper to bring the deficit back to 94-85 with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Calling timeout, the closing stretch to the third ended up becoming the defining stretch of the game, with Milwaukee ripping off a dominant 14-2 run to head into the fourth quarter with a 21-point lead.
The final nine points of the run all came from Bobby Portis triples, with the Bucks leading bench scorer pouring it on in the continuation of a big night. Portis tallied a season-high 23 points on 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line and gave the Bucks all the cushion they needed to secure the win.
Bobby in just 23 minutes:- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 23, 2021
23 PTS | 5 REB | 3 BLK | 5/5 3PT pic.twitter.com/EyA28kqQrZ
Embiid leaves early
After the Sixers' loss to Phoenix a night earlier, Embiid admitted he's "not in the best physical shape at this point".
With that in mind, it was at least a little surprising that the big man suited up against Milwaukee, with his night ending late in the third quarter. Hampered by an apparent shoulder issue, Embiid headed to the locker room late in the period, failing to return to the floor.
The MVP candidate finished with 24 points on 21 shots, seeing a number of Milwaukee defenders on the night including Brook Lopez, Antetokounmpo, PJ Tucker and Jrue Holiday. Postgame, head coach Doc Rivers said Ben Simmons is only 50/50 to return for the second game against Milwaukee, and one would have to imagine the status of Embiid will be up in the air until tip.
Milestone will have to wait
Antetokounmpo went to the line in the final seconds with a chance to bring up his 12,000th career point. Missing the first, the Milwaukee superstar was forced to wait another game.
It was a typically stat-stuffing night for the MVP, finishing with 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block to go alongside his 27 points.
Giannis: "One day I'm going to break your record"- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 23, 2021
Michael Redd: "I know you will" pic.twitter.com/d24ju3jb8H
Bucks' end-o-game drought
Yes, Milwaukee won this game comfortably. No, they didn't finish in a manner that would please head coach Mike Budenholzer.
Portis knocked down a long two with 6:55 remaining to give the Bucks a 122-103 lead. For the rest of the game, they only managed two solitary free throws.
It was an incredible dry spell for the Bucks, who clearly moved into preservation mode as the Sixers cleared their bench. To make matters worse, Budenholzer brought finally brought in his reserves with 1:13 left only for a series of turnovers that caused a timeout with 7.6 seconds remaining and one angry stare.
Milwaukee pulled out the win, but it was not the close one Budenholzer was after.
Fresh Khris Middleton
The numbers don't lie when it comes to Khris Middleton. He morphs from excellent shooter to absolute flame thrower when he gets a few day's rest.
Middleton's shooting percentage by days of rest (via BBall-Ref)
Middleton finished the night with 24 points on 10-for-16 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep, burying a series of difficult jumpers throughout the night. The good news for Bucks fans? Back-to-backs aren't a thing in the postseason.
Khris was money all night:- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 23, 2021
24 PTS | 5 AST | 10/16 FG pic.twitter.com/bEKT3XAvWh
Hill meets some familiar friends
Starting in place of Simmons, former Milwaukee Buck George Hill was faced with the difficult task of defending some of his former star teammates.
Still working back into game shape after an extended layoff prior to joining Philadelphia, Hill's impact was limited on the night.
The veteran guard finished with six points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. As he did with the Bucks in previous years, Hill looms as an important piece of the Sixers' rotation with his ability to knock down outside shots and defend on the perimeter likely to be coveted.
Brothers. pic.twitter.com/miKIor8GmG- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 22, 2021
The Sixers and Bucks will meet again after one night off in an afternoon showdown at Fiserv Forum. A win for Milwaukee would bring them within 1.5 games of the Sixers in the standings.
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