Starstruck Philadelphia 76ers drop back-to-back contests on the road

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

A day after losing to the Detroit Pistons, the Philadelphia 76ers were handed yet another loss, this time at the hands of the ‘Greek Freak’ in Milwaukee.

With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the energy from 17,300 plus who filled Fiserv Forum for a primetime Wednesday night Eastern Conference showdown crested. Their incarnation of “The Process” just secured an outlet pass at Milwaukee’s side of the Bucks head at midcourt.

Three dribbles and 50 feet later, the ‘Greek Freak’ stepped through Philadelphia 76ers center Mike Muscala’s feeble attempt to draw a charge, eliciting a whistle for the ‘and-one.’ Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free throw extended the Milwaukee Bucks’ lead to fifteen points.

The Sixers made a late game push cutting the deficit to eight points, but Giannas quickly put an end to the run, knocking down two from the line following a foul on the hands of Ben Simmons. Despite the foul, Simmons pocketed his 13th career-triple double only to be one-upped by the “Freak” who racked up his 10th en route to a 123-108 loss for Philadelphia, the second of a midweek, midwest back-to-back.

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There were several troublesome concerns over the road trip. An absence of defense in Milwaukee which included a second-quarter where Brett Brown’s unit allowed nearly 50 points, a treacherous cascade of bricks heaved from beyond the arc and a lack of rookie Markelle Fultz’s presence amid crunch time in Detroit with Simmons sidelined by a back injury.

On a team with not one but two young superstars, each night the opponent’s counterpart to Embiid and Simmons overshadowed and outperformed “The Process” and handed the kids a lesson on how to completely take over the game. Yes, Joel Embiid dropped 30 points both nights, and Simmons spread the floor with his triple-double, but their efforts weren’t enough to lead the Sixers to victory on either occasion.

Blake Griffin, who was acquired by the Detroit Pistons in February through a midseason trade, is off to a hot start in the 2018 campaign but no one expected the former Clipper to go off for 50 points including five buckets from outside the three-point line in a crushing overtime loss on Tuesday.

Griffin controlled the game throughout its duration, and only an overtime push by J.J. Redick including a monstrous four-point play could keep the Sixers in the game. After lining up outside the paint on the play which Griffin burnt Amir Johnson for the go-ahead bucket and foul, Embiid threw up an offline desperation three-point attempt that ended the game.

In the brutal letdown of a second quarter last night, Embiid nearly disappeared. Though he had six points in that time frame, his offensive and defensive presence were lacking as the team allowed Milwaukee to not only claw back into the game but jump out to a significant halftime lead.

When a clutch comeback was necessary, Embiid and Simmons failed to take over the game while Giannis did just that, throwing wild over-the-head no-look assists and showcasing his skill set as both a big man and a ball handler.

It’s early in the season, but the matter of the fact is that every game counts. Embiid can drop as many 30 point games as he wants, but he has yet to show that he can outperform the league’s best and take over in the fourth quarter.

We know that Simmons has no shot beyond the elbow, but he has a dual threat driving ability to slam it down a defenders throat or dish it off for an easy score. Embiid is a seven-foot monster who, when he puts his mind to it, can dominate the game.

With a matchup at home against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, the Sixers get a short break from big man superstars, but they’ll have to contain Kemba Walker and his ability to go off from anywhere on the court.

Next. Amir Johnson is playing his best basketball in years. dark

The bottom line is that Simmons and Embiid must learn to work together and utilize their unique skill sets to coincide and maximize the efficiency of this Sixers team.