Sixers double down on blown leads in loss to Milwaukee

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

-Milwaukee 118, Philadelphia 110 – Box Score

And the Oscar for biggest collapse goes to…it’s a tie! The winners are the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter and the Philadelphia 76ers in the third quarter.

Although they’ve been much better in this area recently, the Sixers have certainly lost their share of big leads this season. However, I don’t think there was a game this season prior to Sunday night when the team lost not one, but two huge leads. In the process, the team missed a huge opportunity to advance in the Eastern Conference standings.

With over 400 listeners of the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast in attendance, chanting “Trust the Process” and cheering on the Sixers, there were plenty of times Sunday night’s game in Milwaukee sounded like a Sixers home game. At the onset, the team played like they have in not losing in South Philadelphia in 2018. There was a 10-0 run to start the game. Dario Saric (25 points on 9-11 shooting) shot a perfect 6-6 from the field for 15 points in the first 9 minutes of the game. Ben Simmons had 8 assists in the first quarter alone. The Sixers led by as many as 20 points and finished with a whopping 43 points in the opening frame.

Of course, it was still far too early to consider the game over. Suddenly, a Jabari Parker buzzer-beating three to end the quarter, followed by some knockdown triples from the immortal Jason Terry, and the Bucks had fought their way back to tie the game at 51. Not to worry though. The Sixers immediately went on a 7-0 run to retake control. Former Buck J.J. Redick (17 points, 4-6 from three) hit a couple big threes, and Philadelphia was back up 12 at halftime. They would extend the lead to 19 a few minutes into the third quarter. Surely, this time the lead would stick?

Alas, the first collapse was mere prelude to the Day After Tomorrow-like meltdown the Sixers underwent in the third quarter. Milwaukee ended the quarter on a 21-0 run; after leading in the quarter by as many as 19, they entered the fourth trailing by 7.

While it’s nice the Sixers have two unicorns, the Bucks have one of their own and Giannis Antetokounmpo was an unstoppable force of nature in the second half. He accounted for 14 points and 2 assists in the third, ending the game with a ridiculous line of 35 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.

While Philadelphia had no answer for the Greek Freak, a 21-0 run takes a two-sided effort, and the team absolutely shot themselves in the foot on the other end of the court. The Sixers gave the ball away 9 times in the third quarter alone, on their way to a season-high 26 turnovers. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for as many turnovers (13) as Milwaukee had as an entire team, and former Redick somehow had 5 giveaways, forcing sloppy passes in traffic and even dribbling it off his foot out-of-bounds at one point.

The Sixers didn’t have a third big surge in them, missing a golden opportunity to move into 5th place and just 1 game back of 3rd-place Cleveland in the standings. Instead, they remain in 6th place, with Milwaukee a half-game back and now leading the season series 2-1. On the surface, a road loss to Milwaukee where Giannis plays like an All-NBA level talent isn’t inexcusable. But the Sixers showed they’re the better team in building those 20 and 19-point leads. More than anything, they beat themselves. When they’re ripping off 7 straight wins and topping LeBron on the road, it’s easy to forget they’re still a team led by very young stars. Nights like Sunday in Milwaukee bring it back into perspective.

Yet, what other fan base would head to Milwaukee in droves to protest the franchise center missing out on Rookie of the Year? There’s still something special here. Don’t forget it because of one terrible game.

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