The daily preview it to the rim with NBA tips as Eastern Conference heavyweights Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers lock horns for the second time this season.
12:30 (AEDT), Fri 18th Feb @ Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
History: Played 266: Bucks 135 V 76ers 131
Last meeting: November 9, 2021: Bucks 118 d 76ers 109 at Wells Fargo Center
Final Thoughts: Updated NBA futures odds suggest there’s a strong chance Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the 76ers are trying to bounce back from a 48-point loss as they wait patiently for their big-name trade acquisition to recover from injury.
The 34-23 Sixers are fifth in the East and were one of the NBA’s form teams post-Xmas, going on a 15-3 run. But they have split their six games in February and were swamped 135-87 at home by the Celtics on Wednesday (AEDT). MVP favourite Joel Embiid, the NBA’s leading scoring, had put up 40 points in two of his previous four games but was held to just 19. Tyrese Maxey (11 pts) was the only other 76er to score in double-figures.
James Harden’s arrival and the end of the Ben Simmons stand-off has significantly enhanced Philadelphia’s championship prospects. But he won’t be in the Sixers’ back-court until after the All-Star break.
The 36-23 Bucks are third on a congested East ladder, winning nine of their last 13 after a patchy start to 2022. They bounced back from consecutive losses to the Suns (131-107) and Blazers (122-107) with a home victory over the Pacers (128-119). After missing the defeat to Portland, Giannis Antetokounmpo detonated against Indiana the following day with 50 points (17-for-21 from the floor) and 14 rebounds.
The Bucks have won 12 of the last 16 between the teams, including the last six in a row. The 76ers went down 118-109 at home in the sides’ only meeting so far this season, with Antetokounmpo (31 pts, 16 reb) in dominant touch and Grayson Allen putting up 25 points in Khris Middleton’s absence. Importantly, though, Embiid was sidelined; Tyrese Maxey (31 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and the recently-traded Andre Drummond (17 pts, 20 reb) were the Sixers’ best in the loss.
The Bucks are 20-10 at home – winning six of their last eight – but only 11-19 against the line. The Sixers are a solid 18-10 on the road (17-11 ATS), winning nine of their last 11 away from Philly.
Milwaukee are hot $1.39 favourites and Giannis will be eager to close the gap on Embiid in an absorbing MVP race. But after their jarring loss to the Celtics, the Sixers will be hell-bent on producing a respectable performance and giving the Bucks a genuine push.
Best Bet: Handicap – 76ers +6 @ $1.90