3 keys for Milwaukee Bucks in pivotal matchup vs Philadelphia 76ers

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 17 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 17 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 02: (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

As the regular season continues to wind down, the Milwaukee Bucks continue to play games against really good teams while in a dogfight between the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. One of them happens to be tonight’s opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers.

This is the third and final meeting between the teams, which means this game becomes even more important than simply a potential playoff matchup in the second round or conference finals. The winner of this game will have the head-to-head tiebreak and with the aforementioned dogfight, that will be very important in the final handful or so of games.

This was one of the games I had circled on my calendar (that’s a lie, I don’t have a calendar to circle things on) and I’m very curious how much each team will show in a regular-season game that has playoff seeding implications.

How will the Milwaukee Bucks match up defensively against the Philadelphia 76ers?

It goes without saying but I’ll do it anyway, tonight will be the first and only time the Bucks get a look at the Sixers’ new dominant duo in Joel Embiid and James Harden. Tack on Tyrese Maxey, who I love despite having kicked the Bucks’ butt in both games this season, and some (inconsistent) scoring from Tobias Harris and this makes for a very interesting test for the reigning champs’ defense.

The easy match-up is sticking Brook Lopez on Embiid and living with the results. Lopez is one of the few dudes that are at least close to big enough to defend Embiid. The last time these two big fellas played against each other, Embiid went 9-of-21 from the field and 9-of-17 on 2-point attempts. Overall last season Embiid went 9-of-20 against Lopez and only drew one shooting foul on Lopez. A lot of those were jumpers though so I’m curious if this new, aggressive Embiid will try to take Lopez into the post or attack off the dribble to see if he can get him into foul trouble.

I’m more conflicted on Harden and Maxey. I don’t expect to see one guy take each player like Lopez will with Embiid, but I’m going to assume Jrue Holiday will be matched up against Harden as much as possible.

In the playoffs last season, Holiday held Harden to 2-of-10 shooting but Harden did pick up three fouls on Holiday. In the regular season, when Harden wasn’t hobbled, he shot 3-of-6 against Holiday.

On the flip side, Holiday has done very well against Maxey for the most part. The second-year guard has shot 4-of-11 against Holiday and 1-of-5 from deep. Neither Khris Middleton nor Grayson Allen has spent much time on Maxey but I expect that will change in this one.

Middleton could also see some time on Harden (in addition to whatever bench guy suits your fancy, Jevon Carter being chief among them), but they’ll try to avoid having Allen on Harden if at all possible. Round one of this chess match will be fascinating.