The Philadelphia 76ers stumbled in their season opener, 126-117, on the road against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
The Sixers will now look to erase that performance when they host the ultra-talented Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
James Harden scored 35 points, Joel Embiid added 26 points and 15 rebounds, but the Philadelphia bench produced only 11 points. It was not the start coveted for a franchise hoping to reach at least the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001.
“Long way to go,” Embiid said. “Defensively, we were not good. Offensively, I thought the ball didn’t move much. It stuck and we went back to our old habits. It’s all on us. All of us, we’ve just got to be better.”
The Sixers bolstered their roster in the offseason with the additions of De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House Jr., P.J. Tucker and Montrezl Harrell.
But the four players combined for 14 points and were virtually non-existent in the fourth quarter.
Harden attempted to carry the team as he hit all 12 free throws and added eight rebounds and seven assists.
“I feel pretty solid,” Harden said. “We’ve got a long journey, long way to go, but it’s not about me individually. I know what I’m capable of. It’s about doing the right things to try to help this team win. For us, we feel like we had stretches where we were playing very, very well, and then times where we allowed them too many easy points. Especially on the road, it’s going to be difficult to recover. Learning lesson. Watch the film, get better, be ready to go Thursday.”
The Bucks, who are considered a legitimate title contender, will open the season without All-Star forward Khris Middleton.
Middleton is recovering from left wrist surgery.
Giannis Antetokounmpo understands that he must assume an even larger leadership role with Middleton sidelined for at least two-to-three weeks.
Joe Ingles (left knee) and Pat Connaughton (calf) were limited during the preseason and both players were ruled out on Wednesday. Wesley Matthews (ankle) is set to play.
“Khris is down, but we know we have a great team,” Antetokounmpo said despite an 0-5 preseason. “We’ve just got to bring it every night.”
Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP, averaged 29.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game last season.
Even with the banged-up players, the Bucks still possess enough other options with Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and Bobby Portis to come up with a road win at Philadelphia.
“It’s always tough playing in Philly. The crowd is always crazy,” Portis said. “They’re gonna be on you. They’re gonna heckle you. They’re gonna do this, that and the third. But, obviously it’s a big-time honor to be in the premier week game and we don’t take that lightly. We’re gonna come out and try and play our best basketball, move the basketball, if you’re open let it fly and just have fun with it.
“Obviously put a lot of work in over the summer, so now’s the time to let it show.”
–Field Level Media