Instant Observations: 76ers Get Demolished by Bucks in Doc Rivers’ Return to Philadelphia

Instant Observations: 76ers Get Demolished by Bucks in Doc Rivers’ Return to Philadelphia Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia crowd booed Doc Rivers in his return to the city, but Rivers ultimately got the last laugh. The Philadelphia 76ers (33-24) were pummeled by Rivers’ Milwaukee Bucks (37-21) 119-98 on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 24 points, seven assists and three steals for the Sixers. De’Anthony Melton added in 16 points and two steals off the bench. The Sixers were without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) and KJ Martin (right ankle impingement).

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Damian Lillard finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and two steals. Bobby Portis added 17 points and five rebounds off the bench. Khris Middleton (left ankle sprain) was the lone player out for the Bucks.

The Sixers’ next contest is a road matchup against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Bucks:

– The Sixers are going to continue to struggle until Embiid’s return if Maxey is the lone player who provides any consistent offensive production. He had another strong game offensively against the Bucks. The 23-year old battled through a tough shooting game as well as a poor whistle from the referees. He did a solid job attacking the basket, although the results did not always show it. While Maxey has proven he can effectively get to the rim, the next stage of his development needs to be doing a better job playing through contact rather than simply looking to draw fouls. His performance against the Bucks also included some effective passing and a few good reads defensively.

Paul Reed continues to be a confounding player to watch. He was excellent as a rebounder against the Bucks, grabbing seven rebounds at halftime. His effort on the offensive glass specifically created multiple extra possessions for the Sixers. He also had some success as a scorer, recording seven points in the first quarter alone. However, he took too many jumpers early in the shot clock, something that should mostly be avoided. The Sixers should not be having possessions ending in a Reed mid-range jumper with 15 seconds on the shot clock. Outside of Reed taking too many jumpers in the first half, he was mostly good offensively.

While Reed’s offensive game was a mixed bag, the same could not be said of his play defensively. The Bucks effectively stretched out the Sixers’ defense by pulling Reed out to the 3-point line, abusing him in the pick-and-roll in the first half. Reed far too often kept playing drop coverage against the screen, giving the Bucks a ton of open 3-pointers they took advantage of with ease. Trying to put Reed into drop coverage rather than letting him step out and defend some in space is a major strategic mistake. Reed also got into foul trouble early in the third quarter, forcing him to the bench for most of the remainder of the game.

– Despite some strong play from Maxey in recent weeks, the Sixers have still come away with a ton of losses on the schedule. Their recent struggles offensively as a team are in large part due to Tobias Harris’ continuing disappearing act. The best thing that can be said about his play against the Bucks was he put up a valiant effort trying to defend Antetokounmpo. Outside of that, he continued to be a disaster offensively. He finished with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the loss to Milwaukee.

His decision making is bordering on being absurd at this point. Dribbling into double teams, launching up poor shots and a general lack of aggressiveness have become the norm for Harris. He rarely looks for his own shot, even when presented with mismatches he should be able to feast on. Head coach Nick Nurse needs to consider drastically lowering his minutes if Harris continues to underperform at this level.

– The Sixers have been forced to experiment with a lot of different lineup combinations since Embiid’s injury. Many of those lineups were some variation of small ball, playing without a true center on the floor. Nurse made the questionable decision to play a lineup consisting of Melton, Cam Payne, Kyle Lowry, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nic Batum. That unit managed to score just four points in the final 3:26 of the first quarter. During that time, the Bucks expanded their lead from seven points up to 14. It is safe to say that lineups without either Maxey or Buddy Hield on the floor should be retired.

– Speaking of Hield, he gave the Sixers little-to-no production against the Bucks. He finished with 11 points while shooting 3-of-9 from beyond the arc. While he had brief success as a playmaker after being traded to the Sixers, it is clear he needs to produce as a shooter in order to be a consistent positive presence on the floor.

– Melton was one of the few players who made a positive impact against the Bucks. At his best, Melton is capable of being an efficient two-way player who can fill in multiple roles. While he did not make much of an impact defensively against the Bucks, his outside shooting provided a nice spark off the bench. He drilled a couple 3-pointers in the third quarter to give the Sixers’ offense some semblance of life. After missing extended time with a back injury, it is nice to see Melton back out on the floor.

– There were multiple reasons why the Sixers lost convincingly to the Bucks. However, letting the Bucks execute a full-court inbounds pass to Brook Lopez at the end of the first half was a microcosm of the Sixers’ issues. Their lack of focus is inexcusable.

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