Giannis and Lillard combined for 54 points as the Bucks

Giannis and Lillard combined for 54 points as the Bucks defeated the 76ers 119-98

Giannis and Lillard combined for 54 points as the Bucksplay

Discussion of Damian Lillard and the Bucks in the second half

To what extent do Milwaukee's title hopes depend on Damian Lillard? Jim Owczarski, Lori Nickel and JR Radcliffe discuss on the Point Forward podcast.

PHILADELPHIA – In the early hours of Saturday morning after the Milwaukee Bucks won a very late game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Thursday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo sat at his locker and took credit for a good win over the Western Conference's top team – but added one Winning on Sunday in Philadelphia would make it count a little more.

Since Doc Rivers took over on January 29th, the team had not followed up one “good win” with another. This time, the Bucks did it thanks to a dominant first half, defeating the 76ers 119-98 in a matinee at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Bucks (37-21) effectively outscored the reeling 76ers (33-24) in the first half, taking a 14-point lead after the first quarter and extending it to 21 at halftime.

Damian Lillard scored 17 points while Bobby Portis (15), Malik Beasley (11) and Antetokounmpo (11) all scored in double figures in the first half while the 76ers shot just 38% from the field. Without reigning MVP Joel Embiid, the 76ers didn't have the firepower to keep up with the Bucks, who had 19 assists on their 26 made field goals at halftime.

With the ball moving, the Bucks shot 56.5% overall from the floor and 59.1% (13-for-22) from behind the three-point line.

The 76ers stayed in the game in the third quarter and outscored the Bucks 34-26, cutting the deficit to 13, but they posed no real threat to win in the second half.

Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 30 points and tied with Lillard for a team-high nine assists. Lillard added 24 points. Portis scored 17 points off the bench while Brook Lopez scored 11 points.

All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey was the only real offensive option for the 76ers, and the Bucks pressured him so often that he shot 8 of 19 for 24 points. Maxey added seven assists.

Did you notice?

Rivers changed the timing of his rotation slightly in the first quarter, as Lillard again played the full 12 minutes and the starters stayed together until the 3:26 mark.

At that point, Milwaukee built a 24-17 lead and went on an 8-0 run. Pat Connaughton came off the bench and hit a three-pointer to make the Bucks 27-17. Portis then ended the quarter with back-to-back shots in the final 48 seconds to give Milwaukee a 35-21 lead.

Giannis reaches his milestone

With two free throws with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo became the 78th player in NBA history to score 18,000 points. The Bucks' all-time leading scorer is just the eighth active player to reach the milestone, joining a group that includes Lillard.

It's another step on the path for the 29-year-old, who not only distances himself further and further from former franchise top scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14,211), but also moves closer to the top of the league's top scorers.

Lillard became just the 51st player to score at least 20,000 points earlier this year.

Antetokounmpo is currently flirting with a career-high scoring average while averaging over 30 points per game for the second straight season and posting a career-best 61% shooting percentage. No player in NBA history has ever achieved this over an entire season.

He scored 30 points against the 76ers, giving him 18,005 points for his career. Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds and dished out nine assists.

Five numbers

00:00.1 There was still time left in the first half when Lopez dunked to give the Bucks a 69-48 lead. The 76ers seemed to have scored the final goal in the second quarter when Tobias Harris made a layup with 1.5 seconds left, but Antetokounmpo got the ball up the middle just in time.

4 Since Rivers took over on Jan. 29, the Bucks have held one opponent under 110 points. The team has only managed this five times before.

8th Ranked in Bucks history for three-pointers made by Beasley in a single season after he drained his fourth three-pointer against Philadelphia with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Beasley has made 166 three-pointers in 56 games this season. He passed Khris Middleton (162 in 2021-22), Todd Day (163 in 1994-95) and Michael Redd (163 in 2005-06). Ray Allen is the all-time single-season points leader with 229 in the 2001-2002 season.

Beasley scored 20 points in Sunday's win and was 6 for 7 from behind the three-point line. It was the seventh time this season that he made at least six three-pointers in a game.

11-0 The Bucks jumped out to a 27-17 lead in the first quarter and withstood an equally strong run from the 76ers in the second quarter that resulted in Philadelphia cutting the deficit to 40-35.

28-3 Bucks record when they score 30 or more points in the first quarter.

Doc Rivers booed upon returning to Philadelphia

Before the game, the Bucks head coach said he hadn't slept an ounce about how he would be received by the Philadelphia fans in his first game on the opposing sideline after being fired by the 76ers last May – and by the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center welcomed him back in typical Philadelphia fashion with loud boos.

Rivers coached in Philadelphia the last three seasons and led the 76ers to a 154-82 (65.3%) regular season record, the second-best winning percentage by a coach in franchise history. They were the top seed in the Eastern Conference in 2020-21 and Joel Embiid was MVP in 2022-23, but never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.

During a nearly 10-minute pre-game press conference, he was asked how he thought he would be remembered in the City of Brotherly Love.

“That’s on you – it’s not me,” Rivers said. “I was happy with it overall. I just wish we could have gone further. I wish I had the chance to get Joel (Embiid) healthy into the playoffs. But when I took this job here (in Philadelphia), I think they were defeated in the first round the year before. That regular season, the next year, we won the East and lost to Atlanta – I'd love to have that season back as a group – but overall Joel got an MVP, we established this team as a championship contender. That wasn't said the year before. And under a lot of stuff. Imagine, we had the James Harden trade and the Ben Simmons trade, so there was a lot going on. Some were under my control, some were out of my control. But overall, I think you're never really happy if you don't win a title. That's why we all do this. There will only be one of these per year. But I really liked it here.”

When will Khris Middleton play?

The three-time All-Star suffered a sprained ankle against Phoenix on Feb. 6 and missed the final five games before the All-Star break. He didn't practice Thursday, was out for the Timberwolves game and Rivers said Middleton “probably” will miss Sunday's matinee. But Middleton did a walkthrough at practice on Thursday, which was enough for Rivers to say if it was a playoff series Middleton could reach.

“We’re getting closer,” Rivers said before the 76ers game. “I don’t know if I can say close enough that we can think about the next game (Tuesday against Charlotte), but he’s getting a lot closer. He feels much better.”