Not enough help and what help did arrive came too late.
Giannis Antetokoumpo put out a career performance with 52 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, but Joel Embiid recorded 40 points, 15 rebounds and six assists and got more help.
That help made the difference, as the Philadelphia 76ers scored a 130-125 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon at Fiserv Forum.
Khris Middleton made two late 3-pointers to help make it interesting and finish with 19 points. But before that he struggled mightily, going 1 for 7 on threes to that point. Brook Lopez reached 14 points, but needed a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left to get there. No other Bucks player scored more than D.J. Wilson’s 13 points.
Embiid, meanwhile, got all kinds of help.
Jimmy Butler chipped in 27 points, and JJ Redick added 19. Tobias Harris contributed 13 points.
And point totals weren’t the only story.
Middleton made 6 of his last 8 shots to finish 8 for 18. Lopez finished just 4 for 11, Eric Bledsoe went 5 for 14 and Nikola Mirotic a dismal 1 for 7. His one field goal was a rebound layup, as he went 0 for 6 on 3-pointers.
The Bucks made their last three 3-pointers. Before that, they were 1 for 7 in the fourth quarter and 13 for 47 (27.7%).
The Bucks’ late success on offense might have made a difference had the Sixers not made big play after big play down the stretch.
Butler scored 11 of his 14 fourth-quarter points between the 5:38 and 3:07 marks, preventing any Bucks rally attempt from getting traction.
After the Bucks cut it to 118-114 on Antetokounmpo’s 3-point play with 1:18 left, Ben Simmons slammed in an Embiid miss with 1:02 left.
Bledsoe quickly made a driving layup to make it 120-116 with 56.4 seconds left, but Embiid made a killer 3-pointer with 35.6 seconds left.
Even with the loss, the Bucks (52-18) retained their three-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the top record in the league.as the Raptors lost at Detroit.
The Sixers (45-25) pulled a full game ahead of the Indiana Pacers for third place in the East. More important, they showed they can win on the Bucks’ home court should the two teams meet in the playoffs.
The Bucks were playing their first game without Malcolm Brogdon. An MRI on Saturday showed Brogdon to have a “minor tear” of his right plantar fascia. He is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, and his availability for the early rounds of the playoffs is in question.
Brogdon was reported to be in a boot and on crutches Sunday.