The Philadelphia 76ers clinched home court advtantage in the first round of the playoffs by virtue of the Boston Celtics defeating the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, but for Philadelphia, the fourth seed is still in the cards.
That could potentially set up an epic confrontation in the second round, as the Sixers could be cross matched with the Milwaukee Bucks, something that would be a treat considering the fact that Joel Embiid hasn’t been significantly outplayed by Giannis Antetokounmpo this season.
Embiid nearly averaged a triple-double in three games against the Milwaukee Bucks this season. He averaged 34.7 points a game, 15.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists, along with shooting an average of 41.9 percent from the field.
But with the Bucks winning their season series against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, it’s reasonable to consider Antetokounmpo’s positive effect on his team. Antetokounmpo is a top MVP candidate, along with Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
With Antetokounmpo being arguably the Eastern Conference’s best player, it’s also reasonable to think about how Embiid, the 76ers’ top player, will stack up against elite talent like Antetokounmpo during the playoffs.
Embiid played well during the Sixers’ loss against the Bucks, as he posted his second triple-double of the season. Though the Sixers lost control of the game near the end of the fourth quarter, Embiid scored 14 of his 34 points in the quarter.
Before the Sixers’ loss, Embiid had missed 12 of the last 20 games because of knee soreness. He played 37 minutes during the game against Milwaukee, the most minutes he played since he totaled 41 during the Sixers’ 118-115 win against the Boston Celtics on March 20.
Despite Embiid’s quality play, the Bucks had the better player in Antetokounmpo — and he played a critical role in helping them win the game. Antetokounmpo scored 45 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished six assists and had five blocks.
During the Bucks’ 15-4 run in the game’s last three minutes, Antetokounmpo had three assists and helped account for six of the team’s 15 points. Antetokounmpo also scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Though Antetokounmpo is better than Embiid, Embiid is still no slouch. If the two teams play each other in the playoffs, the matchup between Antetokounmpo and Embiid is nearly even.
But the fact that Antetokounmpo has a slight edge because of his athleticism, makes the Bucks a tough team to beat. During the season series against the Sixers, Antetokounmpo averaged 43 points per game, 15.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists on 55.6 percent shooting.
Antetokounmpo has slightly more impact on his team than Embiid does; he’s the main reason why the Bucks have the best record in the NBA. In looking at the two rosters, though, the talent between the two teams is about even.
If the Sixers have their starters healthy, along with key players on their bench such as Mike Scott, James Ennis III, T.J. McConnell and Boban Marjanovic, then they’re just as difficult to beat.
The Sixers are 8-2 when each of their starters play. With Embiid being the headliner of one of the best starting lineups in the league, he’s almost as good as Antetokounmpo. Keyword being almost.
Still, if the Bucks and Sixers meet in the playoffs, the series could come down to if Embiid can play decidely better than Antetokounmpo, which is something he didn’t do in the regular season.
Some players have a knack of bringing the best out of one another. At this point, it’s fair to wonder whether that’s the case with Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, it might be, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get seven more games between them—something that would be in the cards for the second round of the playoffs should the Sixers finish the season with the fourth seed.