Joel Embiid was more concerned about Philadelphia 76ers teammate Tyrese Maxey's foot injury than his own rolled ankle which saw him hobble through Saturday's 112-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Embiid hurt his ankle when he tripped over teammate Georges Niang with 5:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, staying grounded as he was attended to by a trainer before hobbling to the bench at Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers center returned to the court and hit a crucial three-pointer but ran with a limp throughout, while he also hobbled at his post-game press conference.

"Hopefully, somehow it feels better, but we'll see," Embiid told reporters.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers also did not seem overly concerned by the ankle problem lingering long term.

"I think it's a turned ankle," Rivers said. "He went back in and played, so I think he's good. Anybody who goes to the floor, I always worry."

Embiid expressed more concern for Maxey, who was hurt in Friday's 110-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, with an MRI scan on Saturday confirming a fractured foot which will sideline him for three to four weeks.

"It really hit me when I heard the news about him missing some time, too," said Embiid, who scored 32 points with nine rebounds and six assists against the Timberwolves.

"That's why even starting the game, I really wasn’t in the game to start the game, but that's why I was trying to really play make and try to get everybody involved and all of that."

Maxey's injury comes with the Sixers already missing James Harden (foot) and Tobias Harris (hip).

"I just felt bad for him because he puts in so much work and, he takes care of himself," he said. "Obviously, missing James to the same thing and Tobias being hurt. It does suck, but it’s next man up."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has never seen anything like Joel Embiid's performance at both ends in Sunday's 105-98 win over the Utah Jazz.

Embiid scored a career-best 59 points, with a joint career-high seven blocks, along with 11 rebounds and eight assists.

The Cameroonian scored 26 of Philadelphia's 27 final quarter points and more than half their total score, a feat not achieved in the NBA since Damian Lillard in 2019.

"I've seen a guy score a lot of points," Rivers told reporters. "I haven't seen guys score a lot of points, rebound, and then the blocked shots. That was impressive.

"He was just getting everything. I've never seen a more dominating performance when you combine defense and offense."

Embiid's teammates were left in awe too, with Matisse Thybulle labelling his stat line as "pretty ridiculous".

"It’s absurd. Actually, my friends were texting me after the game and they were like 'It's like a 2K stat line' and it's not one of those things you see in a real basketball game," Thybulle said.

"It's like when you pick one player on 2K and just do everything with him. It's pretty ridiculous if I'm being honest. It's amazing."

Embiid's 59 points is the best in the NBA this season, exceeding Darius Garland's mark of 51 set earlier on Sunday in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 129-124 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Despite his monstrous performance, Embiid played down the significance of his individual display.

"This is not about me. We did it as a team," the 28-year-old center said. "Obviously, the coaches put me in those positions, and obviously, my teammates fed me the ball. I thought we had great spacing around everything we were doing.

"Like I said, all the credit goes to my teammates just being in the right spots and trusting me and giving me the ball."

Embiid shot 19-of-28 from the field including making a three-pointer, which reinforced to him that it was going to be his game.

"When I finally made a three [I knew it was going to be a big game] because I’ve been shooting the ball so bad this year from three," he said.

"It was early in the game. I saw how they were guarding me. Just like last night, I'll take that every night. If they’re not gonna double team as much, I hope every team does it so I'll take it, but from the beginning... Obviously, in the fourth quarter with the game being so close, I just wanted to do whatever it took."

With Joel Embiid out of the line-up for the Philadelphia 76ers' trip to take on the Toronto Raptors, it was third-year guard Tyrese Maxey rising to the challenge to set a new career-high points total in the 112-90 win.

Maxey, who prior to Friday had only ever scored more than 33 points once – a 39-point effort against the Denver Nuggets as a rookie – set a new personal-best with 44 points against the Raptors.

He was incredibly efficient, hitting 15-of-20 from the field and nine-of-12 from three-point range, while also leading the 76ers with eight rebounds and chipping in four assists.

Former league MVP James Harden was happy to cede the responsibility to his less-experienced running-mate, finishing with just 11 points, four rebounds and four assists as he assumed a supporting role.

It was also a breakout performance for De'Anthony Melton, who was given his first start in a 76ers uniform after being acquired in the offseason and made his presence felt defensively, snatching five steals to go with his 13 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Speaking to the media after the game, Maxey said his big night was simply the product of the offense running smoothly.

"It was [about] getting good looks," he said. "We got to the paint, sprayed off for threes, got in transition, and once you get stops, the game becomes way easier honestly, for not just myself, but for all of us.

"We were getting to the paint and driving and kicking, creating, generating offense for everybody. That’s why I got open threes, why [Melton] got open threes, Tobias [Harris] got open threes. 

"I just know how good we can be, I know how talented we are, but we’ve got to match our talent with the energy that we play with, and defensive tenacity.

"Tonight we knew it was going to be extremely hard without Joel. That made guys step up, that made guys do things they don’t normally do."

Teammate Matisse Thybulle was thrilled to see Maxey shine, but he said it was no surprise.

"Every time he gets an opportunity, he does something big with it," he said. "You could even take it back to the COVID games we were looking at our bench, like who’s gonna be the one to step up? 

"Tyrese Maxey did – and it’s like, time after time – Tyrese is the one that steps up, shows up big and he does it, obviously, as an individual, but for the team, and we all benefit from it."

Head coach Doc Rivers also enjoyed the show, and he pointed to it as an indicator of how well the 76ers adjusted without their star center.

"I just think he’s a heck of a basketball player," he said. "We came into the game knowing Joel wasn’t gonna play… we talked to [the rest of the team] this morning about trying to find matchups and then spacing the floor and attacking.

"They are a great help-defensive team and they can’t stop it. Us getting into the paint sucked everybody in, and that’s where we got shots. I thought we were ready for that and I thought we did a good job."

After starting the season with three consecutive losses, the 76ers have now won two of their past three to take a 2-4 record into their road trip against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden said it is a weight off everyone's shoulders to finally get their first win of the season on the board with a 120-106 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

After an 0-3 start following losses to the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs, the 76ers began to right the ship with an explosive first half.

Led by former MVP Harden with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the first two quarters, the 76ers ran out to a 64-46 halftime lead.

Back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid worked his way to the free throw line in the second half, hitting all nine of his attempts to finish with 26 points (eight-of-13 shooting), five rebounds and three blocks, while Harden posted 29 points (10-of-18 shooting) with nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Speaking to the media after the game, Harden said it's a good start, but there is still plenty of work to do if they want to be real contenders this season.

"That felt good, man," he said. "It felt like we were 0-82. It felt good, but it's a work in progress.

"As much as we want things to happen overnight, and for us to be 4-0, we're 1-3. We just have to continue to work, continue to build really good habits, and live with the results. 

"We have to hang our hats on the defensive end, and I think we had some really good spurts, and then some where we let them back in the game. We have to continue to build and continue to hang our hats on the defensive end."

Meanwhile, head coach Doc Rivers praised Embiid for his patience and playing within the structure of the offense.

"I liked his patience," he said. "This was one of those game where you haven't won a game, and they're trapping him every time – literally every time he touched it early – and he just kept moving it.

"He was in no rush, and eventually it opened up because they were tired of us making threes, so then they left Joel one-on-one – which is not going to work either.

"I just liked how he approached the game – he had great patience, he let the game come to him."

Rivers added that if the 76ers want to play faster – which they do – the Pacers are a great team to do it against.

"They play really fast – because they have to," he said. "They're very similar to San Antonio, and I've coached teams like this. When you don't have the one guy you can just give it to, you better run, if you have any chance.

"We really focused on [our pace] this morning – our goal was to get the ball across halfcourt by 20 [on the shot clock]. I don't think we accomplished that goal a lot, but we did get it up there a lot earlier.

"That allows us – especially against trapping teams, because they were switching and trapping Joel [Embiid] – having those four or five extra seconds to make the extra pass, guys get rhythm shots."

Harden also touched on that point, shouldering the blame for some of their lack of pace in the opening games as they entered this contest with the fewest possessions-per-game at 98.3, whereas the league-leading Golden State Warriors are averaging 113.4 possessions.

"It gives us more time to create a better shot," he said. "When you're walking the ball up, you're limited, so we want our pace to pick up a little more.

"The first couple games I put that on myself – just because I've played against some really good individual defensive players – but even me, when they're on me, I've got to push the ball up and push the tempo.

"That's just going to give us more opportunities on the back-end when the shot clock is winding down. Tonight was a good start, and we just need to keep improving."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers criticised his side for their toughness and playing too slow in Tuesday's blowout 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5.

The defeat leaves the 76ers down 3-2 in the Conference semi-finals series with games in both Philadelphia and, if required, Miami to come.

The 76ers were never a threat in Game 5, trailing by 12 points at quarter time, with Miami eventually winning by 35 points; the equal biggest margin in the 2021-22 playoffs so far.

"They were just more physical. We didn't run our stuff very well," Rivers told reporters after the game.

"We played at a snail's pace. We had 85 shots, turned the ball over, everything they did tonight was harder and better.

"Their stuff was better than what we ran, their energy was better, their toughness was better, I haven't said that very often about us, and that's on all of us.

"That's on me to make sure they're ready and that's on them to be ready. Tonight, we were not."

The 76ers had squared up the series after being down 2-0 but Rivers was left bemused by their lack of effort in Game 5.

"Obviously, they just were so much more engaged, more physical, took us out of stuff, there was a lot of disappointment from all of us tonight," Rivers said.

Embiid had played in both Games 3 and 4 after a concussion and a fractured orbital bone, but struggled for impact in Game 5, managing only 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.

"We didn’t play defense," Embiid said. "We weren’t physical enough, we weren't locked in from the beginning, and they took advantage of it."

James Harden was kept to 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for Philadelphia.

"They got off to a good start," Harden said. "Being down 12 in the first quarter on the road against a really good team is difficult.

"We cannot allow that to happen. Especially, Game 5 and the two games where we just came off our home court playing well. It is difficult to come back and fight your way back and we just never got our pop."

The Philadelphia 76ers still do not know if Joel Embiid will be able to return in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, as he still has "so many steps to go through".

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, in which the 76ers now trail 2-0 after another defeat on Wednesday.

Although Tyrese Maxey went off for 34 points, Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night in Embiid's absence to inspire a 119-103 win.

The 76ers will hope to get on the board as they head home to Philadelphia, but they may again be without their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Coach Doc Rivers could offer no assurances ahead of Game 3, as he told reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking.

"But he's got so many steps to go through, and I don't think he's cleared any of them right now. So, we just have to wait and see."

Despite the Heat's dominant start, coach Erik Spoelstra remains wary of the series-altering impact of a potential Embiid return.

"It changes dramatically," Spoelstra said. "You're talking about MVP talent, you know? So, we'll just have to see.

"We knew that this series was going to shift, and it was going to change pretty dramatically [if Embiid returns].

"It's better for it to change dramatically when we're able to get a couple wins, but yeah, he changes the equation quite a bit."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is leaving the door open for Joel Embiid's return to the court, following Monday's series-opening defeat to the Miami Heat, but stopped short of giving "false hope".

The MVP candidate missed Philadelphia's 106-92 defeat in Game 1 against the Heat due to a right facial fracture, after he was hit by Pascal Siakam as they closed the series out against the Toronto Raptors last Thursday.

Embiid has been ruled out for Game 2 on Wednesday, with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting he could be back as soon as Game 3 when the series switches to Philadelphia.

With that in mind, Rivers tried to temper expectations but cited progress in Embiid's recovery.

"I know he did something yesterday, but not much, and I know he's feeling a better," Rivers said on Tuesday.

"I don't want to give false hope either. So I'll just stop there."

After winning the scoring title in the regular season, Embiid averaged 26.2 points on 52 per cent shooting and 11.3 rebounds in the series against the Raptors.

 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hit back at reporters on Wednesday, defending his playoff resume from the insinuation that he is responsible for some memorable collapses.

The 76ers are a team under pressure against the Toronto Raptors in their first round series, as they strive to avoid the dubious honour of becoming the first team to ever blow a 3-0 series lead.

After controlling the first three fixtures, the 76ers fell by eight points in Game 4, and 15 points in Game 5 as star Joel Embiid battles a thumb injury that will likely require surgery once Philadelphia's season is over.

Rivers, who won the 2008 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, pushed back when questioned about his reputation in the playoffs.

"Well, it's easy to use me as an example," he said "But I wish y'all would tell the whole story with me. All right?

"My Orlando team [in 2003] was the eighth seed. No one gives me credit for getting up against the [Detroit] Pistons, who won the title. 

"That was an eighth seed. I want you to go back and look at that roster. I dare you to go back and look at that roster. And you would say, 'What a hell of a coaching job.' Really.

"I mean, the Clipper team [in 2015] that we lost 3-1, Chris Paul didn't play the first two games, and was playing on one leg, and we didn't have home court. 

"And then the last one [when the Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in 2020], to me, is the one we blew. That's the one I took. We blew that. 

"And that was in the bubble. And anything can happen in the bubble. There's no home court. Game 7 would have been in LA."

After highlighting his most famous playoff shortcomings, Rivers insisted it is not a theme, and sometimes it is just the way the cookie crumbles.

"But, it just happens," he said. "So I would say with me... some of it is, I gotta do better, always.

"I always take my own responsibility. And then some of it is, circumstances happen. This one, let's win it, and we don't have to talk about it.

"Being up 3-0, especially 3-0, I would say that [teams feel differently].

"A lot of teams don't win those games. The Celtics are the only one that won that game [in the first round of this year's playoffs]. Everyone else lost that game.

"From a coaching standpoint, you hate that, because you feel like, 'Let's just take care of it.' Then you get to Game 5 the other night, and [Toronto] played better. 

"We didn't play well. We didn't play with a sense of urgency. So clearly now, I think both teams have kind of served notice and both teams have the other team's attention.

"If you don't have that, then we're all in trouble."

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid's 41 points in Saturday's 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers has ensured he will average 30 points this season and he has already set his sights on his next goal.

Embiid becomes the first center to average 30 points in a season since 1981-82 when Moses Malone averaged 31.1 per game for the Houston Rockets.

The 76ers center's achievement further enhanced his credentials to be this season's MVP but he was already eyeing off Malone's mark.

"Well, that’s the challenge for next year," Embiid joked with reporters after the game. "So, next year, I gotta come out and average more than him.

"But it’s great. Obviously, he's a legend. Especially as a big in this era, it’s been a long time, 40 years it hasn’t been done. That’s something that I think is great.

"I hope guys coming up more, especially bigs coming up, are able to do even more. I think the biggest thing with me is that I feel comfortable with it because I feel like I didn’t force anything. I feel like I just played within the flow of the offense.

"Before we had James (Harden). Obviously, I had a much larger role in the offense whether it was playmaking or scoring and since we added him, I try to share the load which has been great. Great stats and I guess I’m happy about it."

Embiid's 30.4 points per game is a career-best for the 28-year-old, shooting at 49.5 per cent. He is also averaging 11.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season.

The All-Star also became the first player this season to have 40 or more points and 20 or more rebounds in a game against the Pacers.

"It's methodical and historical. Whatever the calls you want to put on it, it's what's he's been," 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said.

Embiid sits atop the NBA scoring charts this season, ahead of LeBron James (30.3) and Kevin Durant (30.1) for points per game and Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle added to the plaudits.

"We haven’t seen a guy like this in the history of the league who has this kind of power and skill,” Carlisle said about Embiid.

"He's able to score on all three levels effortlessly. He's an amazing player and it will be interesting to see what teams do in the playoffs to try to slow him down."

The 76ers are fourth in the east but can still finish above the third-placed Boston Celtics pending the final regular-season results.

Philadelphia will face either the Toronto Raptors or Chicago Bulls depending on where they finish but Embiid had no preference.

"I just want to win tomorrow [against the Detroit Pistons]," Embiid said. "I don’t really care who we play. I feel pretty confident about both match-ups."

Giannis Antetokounmpo says his game-winning block was all about trusting his instincts as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed an important 118-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP made a crucial block to deny Joel Embiid a lay-up to tie the game up with under two seconds left on the clock after James Harden's three-point attempt rimmed out.

Antetokounmpo had already scored 40 points with 14 rebounds and six assists, with his third block proving a decisive intervention.

"Just let my instincts play," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "The ball went to Embiid and I just tried to jump as high as I can and try to make a play.

"I knew it was going to be a quick one. I felt it. When you get in that position and you're down one, with the clock running, you get it and go quick. I tried to time it.

"It worked out, sometimes it doesn’t work out. This time it worked out in our favour."

The play was reviewed after it was initially seen as a goal tend which was cleared, forcing a jump ball which allowed the clock to wind down.

Embiid said: "I thought it was close. I probably should’ve gone up harder. In that situation I didn’t know how much time was left.

"I was just trying to get the ball off quickly. I thought it was close. I didn’t know if it was a goal tend or not."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said it was "just a special block", while 76ers counterpart Doc Rivers labelled it "spectacular".

The result means the Bucks move into second spot in the Eastern Conference with a 47-28 record, behind the Miami Heat (48-28), with the Boston Celtics (47-29) in third and the 76ers (46-29) in fourth.

The 76ers have suffered successive losses to last season's NBA Finalists, the Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, in a wake-up call to their title credentials.

"We've got to do a better job," Embiid said. "Against Phoenix we were right there. Tonight we had a lead, just like against Phoenix.

"It's a game of runs. Every team is going to make their runs. We just need to stay calm and know what we need to do. Last game showed why those two teams went to the finals."

The Philadelphia 76ers confirmed star pair Joel Embiid and James Harden were sitting out Monday's game with the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

Embiid was out with back soreness and Harden was missing as part of his right hamstring recovery amid the 76ers' sequence of three games in four nights.

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rovers had replied "possibly" when asked on Friday if either of the pair could be rested during their busy run of games.

However, Harden said after Sunday's 93-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors he was expecting to face the Heat.

The Heat lead the East with a 47-24 record, with the 76ers third ahead of Monday's games at 43-27.

Embiid is in MVP contention this season, averaging a league-high 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

Harden, who switched to the 76ers from the Brooklyn Nets in February, is averaging 22.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 10.2 assists across the season.

Joel Embiid will keep playing through the pain as the Philadelphia 76ers push towards the NBA playoffs.

The five-time All-Star scored 32 points as the Sixers scored a 111-101 win against the Dallas Mavericks in their latest assignment, complementing 24 from James Harden.

A back problem is causing Embiid to feel the strain as he leads the team towards the postseason, but coach Doc Rivers believes the 28-year-old can stand the physical toll for now.

At 43-26 following Friday night's win, the Sixers are three games behind the Miami Heat, who lead the Eastern Conference, while the Mavericks are fifth in the Western Conference at 43-27.

Embiid added eight rebounds and tied a career-high with five steals, then offered some insight into his fitness state.

"I'm OK," he said. "I've just got to keep pushing. What, 13 more games? We're almost there. Then we will figure out the rest later. I'm fine. We've just got to keep pushing."

He added: "We did a really good job tonight. I think the activity we all had, especially the guys at the top of the zone, was huge, recovering, doing what they do best. It was good to see."

Despite the back bothering him of late, Embiid has played 19 consecutive games, only once dipping under 22 points in that stretch (19 points against Boston Celtics on February 15).

"He's just playing through everything," coach Rivers said, quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"I go back to the same thing. He's in great shape. Conditioning allows you to play through injury, allows you to play through pain, and he's doing that."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rovers believes Ben Simmons deserves a tribute when the Brooklyn Nets visit on Thursday.

Simmons left the 76ers acrimoniously with a trade to the Nets after more than five years with Philadelphia.

The 25-year-old point guard endured a difficult 2021 playoffs leading to a fallout with the 76ers, demanding a trade and sitting out the first half of the season before the Nets move materialised. 

Simmons and 76ers center Joel Embiid fell out too, ramping up the tensions with the latter posting a cryptic Twitter update upon Simmons' exit last month.

“I do actually,” Rivers said when asked if Simmons deserved a tribute video upon his return. “Ben did a lot of good things here.

"It didn’t end well, right? Just like marriages and all kinds of other things that don’t end well but Ben did a lot of good things here.

"It’s funny, I don’t know if we are or not, but if we did, I’d have no issues with it.”

Simmons won the 2018 Rookie of the Year, had been a three-time All-Star and two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member with the 76ers reaching the playoffs in all four of his seasons with the side.

The Australian is yet to debut for the Nets and unlikely to play on Thursday as he builds up his conditioning having not played all season at the 76ers but may attend the game with the team.

Rivers sarcastically added: "Our fans are so silent so I can't imagine anything happening."

Meanwhile, James Harden shrugged off any talk of nerves ahead of the match-up where he will face his former Nets teammates for the first time since last month's trade with Simmons.

"I'm not nervous, it's basketball," Harden told reporters after Monday's 121-106 win over the Chicago Bulls. "I've put the work in to just play my game and live with the results.

"Honestly every game is a big game for us. We're fairly new, we've got championship aspirations so every game is a learning process for us no matter who we're playing."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rovers says he pays no attention to the Eastern Conference standings after Saturday's loss left them three games behind the Miami Heat.

Rivers opted not to play 2018 MVP James Harden in the second game of their back-to-back as they went down 99-82 to the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

Joel Embiid scored 22 points with 15 rebounds for the 76ers but was often double-teamed in Harden's absence, while Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro both contributed 21 points for the Heat.

The decision to leave out Harden was curious given the relative significance of the fixture with seedings in mind, with the Heat top of the east with a 43-22 record ahead of the second-placed 76ers at 39-24.

“I really don’t look at the standings,” Rivers said at the post-game news conference. “What do they matter? You have to win.

"I swear to God, after 82 [games], someone’s going to tap me and say ‘This is who you’re playing.’ ... You can only control what you can control. The other stuff is for everyone else to talk about."

The 76ers head coach clarified that Harden was left out due to managing a left hamstring complaint which was "nothing".

“It’s nothing, really,” Rivers said pre-game. “He’s just played a lot of games, he’s been out, and that’s about it really. There’s nothing to read into it.”

The Eastern Conference feels like a closer contest than the west at the moment, which should be on show when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

It will be Giannis Antetokounmpo versus Joel Embiid at Fiserv Forum, the players with the two best points-per-game averages in the league this season (29.4 and 29.3 respectively), which perhaps indicates how close this game could end up being.

The defending champions in Milwaukee are currently third in the East on 36-23, while the Sixers sit fifth on 34-23.

The Bucks ended a two-game losing streak with a 128-119 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, with an ominous 50-point performance from Giannis.

It is the first time the Greek has scored 50 points this season, while Khris Middleton (19 points) and Jrue Holiday (14 points) also played their part, and they will be key again against the Sixers.

Embiid also managed 50 points last month in Philadelphia's win against Orlando Magic and has hit 40+ points in four other games since then.

Doc Rivers will be looking for a response after his team were crushed by the Boston Celtics 135-87 on Tuesday, where Embiid (19) and Tyrese Maxey (11) were the only Sixers to hit double figures.

There is still no James Harden following his blockbuster trade from the Nets, with his debut apparently coming against Minnesota on February 25, but the other arrival in that deal, Paul Millsap, made a good impression in his first game against the Celtics.

"He looked good," said Rivers. "After the game, he said he felt pretty good. I was surprised… He will add some toughness to us, there's no doubt about that, he'll be able to step out and make threes for us at the five spot. That'll be something we work on."

A victory for Philadelphia will open up the Eastern Conference even more, but with Giannis in such form, getting a win in Milwaukee will very much be easier said than done.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo

It is a team sport, but the Greek sensation will always be vital to the Bucks, particularly in big games like this one.

Having gone 23 games in a row scoring at least 20 points, Giannis only managed 18 in last week's defeat to the Phoenix Suns, only to follow it up with his best scoring performance of the season against the Pacers.

The danger for Philadelphia is if their concentration on Giannis allows the likes of Middleton and Holiday to do damage, but coach Rivers is experienced enough to know that and plan accordingly.

Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid

As predictable as it is, it's difficult to go with anyone else for the Sixers right now. If they want to win in Milwaukee, Embiid has to thrive.

While his 19 against Boston was comfortably his team's highest score, it also saw a streak of 23 straight games with at least 25 points come to an end, and he'll likely want to begin a new streak right away.

Although he's slightly behind Giannis for points-per-game, the Cameroonian does have the edge in free-throws made, leading the league on 410 ahead of Giannis in second on 389.

KEY BATTLE – Will it be three and easy for the winner?

The Bucks enjoy a shot from downtown and are currently third in the league for three-pointers made (835), behind only the Golden State Warriors (846) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (841), while only the Washington Wizards (560) have fewer threes than the Sixers (620).

Having said that, only the Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks (both 613) have conceded fewer threes than Philadelphia (641) while no team has conceded more than the Bucks (833).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Bucks have enjoyed an excellent recent record against the Sixers, winning the past six meetings, including a 118-109 win in Philadelphia in November. The last Sixers victory came on Christmas Day 2019 (121-109).

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