MILWAUKEE–The Philadelphia 76ers opened the season on Thursday with a 118-117 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on the road. While it is a loss, the Sixers hung with one of the better teams in the league despite trailing by 19 early and not having James Harden.
Without Harden, who led the league in assists at 10.7 in the 2022-23 season, the Sixers had some trouble getting into offensive sets to begin the game. However, they were much better after halftime and they even rallied to take an 8-point lead in the fourth quarter, but were unable to pull off the upset.
“Well, I thought we gave a great effort, right?” coach Nick Nurse said afterward. “We were playing extremely hard. Thought we took a huge run kind of Haymaker from them in the first half on the road and we were able to get back together and get going a little bit. We did some really good things.”
The Sixers did do some really good things. Bucks star Damian Lillard carved them up for 21 points in the first half and they held him down for a bit in the third and the early part of the fourth to get back into the game before Lillard found a rhythm again and closed them out.
“They hit us in the mouth, second quarter went down 20 or whatever, we got it to, I don’t know what it was, I think at the end of the half, but that’s big time,” added Tyrese Maxey who had 31 points. “Then they hit us again, we come back, take the lead, but we’ve got to sustain that lead, man. We got to be able to finish those games out.”
Joel Embiid, who looked a bit rusty after playing in only one preseason game, had 24 points, six assists, and seven rebounds, but he also had seven turnovers. If he cleans up a mistake here and there, then the Sixers would have win that game.
“It’s still a loss, but then again, you gotta take this and find ways to get better,” said Embiid. “I know that I gotta do better. I’m gonna be better. Especially, in this offense and trying to figure it out the right spacing and getting my guys open.”
The Sixers were also on the wrong end of a few bad calls. The biggest one was when Giannis Antetokounmpo air balled a layup and then grabbed the rebound. When it should have been a self-pass travel call, instead it ended up becoming a Lillard 3 to give Milwaukee the lead for good at 105-104 with 3:57 left.
“First game of the season, I think we’re gonna be fine.,” Embiid added. “I like a lot of the stuff that we were doing. We got some bad calls our way towards the end between the travel on the Giannis putback that turned into a 3 and then some of the fouls, but that was on us, too. We need to be better. We’re gonna be better.”