B/R NBA Employees, Truth or Fiction: Joel Embiid’s 76ers Are Bucks’ Greatest East Menace
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(L-R) Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel EmbiidPatrick McDermott/Getty Pictures
The Boston Celtics have been in first or second place within the East for almost all of this season, however it’s the Philadelphia 76ers who would possibly signify the convention’s largest menace to the Milwaukee Bucks getting again to the Finals.
After a 118-109 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Sixers have the best record within the league since December 1. Joel Embiid has surged into the betting favourite’s spot for MVP on FanDuel’s sportsbook, and James Harden leads the league in assists.
Boston continues to be the East’s most up-to-date participant within the Finals, although. And all of the principal gamers from that run are again. The Celtics could also be in a little bit of a lull now, however they’ve clearly proven the ceiling of a championship contender at different factors this season.
So, which one has the most effective shot of beating the Bucks within the playoffs? Bleacher Report’s NBA workers has the solutions you want.
Truth: 76ers Are a Menace however Should Go By means of Celtics First
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Tyrese MaxeyPatrick McDermott/Getty Pictures
The Milwaukee Bucks have to be cautious of the Philadelphia 76ers, however solely in an Japanese Convention Finals matchup. Barring a major shift within the standings, Joel Embiid and the Sixers have to get by the Boston Celtics first. And in the event that they do beat the highly effective Celtics, Philadelphia could possibly be an actual downside for the Bucks.
Milwaukee’s best and most blatant benefit is All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. However the Sixers counter with probably the most dominant facilities of his era in Embiid. Philadelphia additionally has the elite perimeter firepower of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, together with regular veterans like Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker (who received a title with Milwaukee in 2020-21).
The Bucks give Antetokounmpo assist with a proficient roster (notably Jrue Vacation and Brook Lopez), however Khris Middleton has struggled to remain wholesome. Can Vacation carry sufficient of the scoring load whereas concurrently attempting to defend an elite scorer like Harden? That is lots to ask, particularly if Embiid can match (and even outplay) Antetokounmpo and Middleton is not his traditional playoff self.
Each groups have depth, and the sting might favor Milwaukee, however playoff sequence are often about star gamers moving into the second.
The Bucks would possibly choose to play the Celtics since they do not have a solution for Antetokounmpo. However the C’s could have the identical situation with the expert dimension (and power) of Embiid within the second spherical. That would propel the Sixers into a really harmful convention remaining for Milwaukee.
Truth: James Harden and Joel Embiid Are a Harmful Duo within the East
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(L-R) James Harden and Joel Embiid Patrick McDermott/Getty Pictures
You do not have to go additional again than earlier this month for proof of Philadelphia’s means to compete in opposition to the Bucks. On March 4, with Milwaukee boasting 16 straight wins, Harden and Embiid mixed for 69 factors and 20 assists in a streak-busting win. The Sixers received the fourth quarter of that sport 48-31. It was hanging proof that when this workforce has it rolling on offense, there isn’t a protection that may stymie its assault.
Over your entire season, Philly is scoring 122.3 factors per 100 possessions when Embiid and Harden are each on the ground. That is an offensive ranking that ranks within the 96th percentile leaguewide. And it is generated from maybe the NBA’s most harmful two-man sport. The Harden-to-Embiid assist combo is not simply first within the league. The hole between the 210 dimes Harden has thrown the large man’s method and the second-place combo (Nikola Jokić to Aaron Gordon) is about as massive because the hole between second and 72nd.
Among the many issues that make that duo so harmful is the truth that each are among the many sport’s most harmful one-on-one scorers. No matter what pick-and-roll protection you ship their method, one (or each) is finally going to have a gap or a mismatch. Go underneath the display screen, and Harden will roast you from the skin. Go over, and he’ll choose you aside as a passer otherwise you’ll have Embiid headed downhill, which has turn into an issue for any defender.
Surrounding these two with some mixture of Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton and Georges Niang means you may’t actually collapse on no matter motion is going on in the midst of the ground both. All of these gamers can torch the nets on wide-open catch-and-shoot alternatives. And Embiid and Harden have each proven a willingness to seek out them on the uncommon events their preliminary actions do not work.
Whether or not it is Milwaukee or Boston, that is going to be robust to cease within the playoffs. However what actually makes Philly the larger menace than Boston is just the “finest participant within the sequence” philosophy. So long as Embiid is wholesome, it is extra seemingly Philadelphia will test that field. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can hit some fairly absurd heights, however the previous few years have made it clear that Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokić are simply on a distinct tier than anybody else proper now.
And although Milwaukee has Giannis, we noticed only a few weeks in the past that Embiid is able to outplaying him too.
Truth: Embiid Is a Matchup Nightmare for Antetokounmpo
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Joel EmbiidJason Miller/Getty Pictures
With the Milwaukee Bucks establishing themselves as the highest canine (deer?) within the East, solely the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers seem highly effective sufficient to problem Giannis Antetokounmpo and firm in a seven-game sequence.
Regardless of the Celtics sitting nearer to the Bucks within the standings and having owned the No. 1 seed for a lot of the season themselves, Milwaukee ought to concern the third-seeded Sixers way more.
No disrespect to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, however neither comes near Joel Embiid by way of a matchup nightmare. The NBA’s main scorer this season at 33.4 factors per night time, Embiid has averaged 31.5 factors, 8.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and shot 45.5 p.c from three in opposition to the Bucks of their final two conferences. Whereas different gamers crumble in opposition to Milwaukee’s No. 2-ranked protection, Embiid has proved able to selecting it aside each along with his personal versatile scoring and passing means. Let’s not neglect what occurred the final time these two titans clashed, both.
Whereas the Bucks have been using excessive on a 16-game profitable streak and led by 14 factors going into the fourth quarter in opposition to Philly, the Sixers exploded for 48 factors within the remaining body to outscore Milwaukee by 17 and safe the victory.
This was fairly the assertion win, one which the Bucks seemingly will not neglect about anytime quickly. The Celtics are a unbelievable workforce, however with Embiid trying like arguably the most effective participant within the NBA and a deep, proficient roster round him, the Sixers have now turn into the most important menace to the Bucks within the East.