Instant Replay: Bucks 94, Sixers 92

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Instant Replay: Bucks 94, Sixers 92

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- The phrase “must-win” is used too often in sports, but if the Sixers wanted to make a run at the playoffs in the second half of the season, a win on Wednesday would go a long way toward that goal.

The Bucks came into the contest with two wins over the Sixers already this season. Milwaukee also sits in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and had a three-game lead over the Sixers coming into this game.

The Sixers could not cut into that margin as they gave up a lead in the fourth quarter of a 94-92 loss. The Bucks won the season series with one more game to play between the two teams.

Turning point
At the 9:19 mark of the fourth quarter, the Bucks took their first lead of the game at 78-77. Milwaukee was persistent. The Bucks trailed by 10 points after one quarter of play, seven at the half and three points heading into the final 12 minutes.

Follow the leader
Brandon Jennings scored 12 third-quarter points before finishing with 21. Jennings was scoreless in the fourth quarter. His backcourt running mate, Monta Ellis, led all scorers with 27.

Evan Turner led the Sixers with 20 points on 19 shots. Spencer Hawes had 19 points and nine rebounds.

Nick Young scored 12 points in the first quarter on 4 of 4 shooting from the field, including a couple three-pointers. However, he scored just two points the rest of the way.

Jrue Holiday headed into his first All-Star Game with a 16-point, 12-assist game.

Stat-egic
Milwaukee shoots 43 percent from the field and 34 from three-point range for the season. At the half, the Bucks were shooting 36 percent from the floor and were just 2 of 8 from three.

In the third quarter, the Bucks shot 55 percent to close within three points and then proceeded to hold the Sixers to 6-of-23 shooting in the fourth quarter.

Take a bow
Former Sixers center Samuel Dalembert 20 has not played much this season when head coach Scott Skiles was in charge. With Skiles now out and Larry Sanders sidelined the last four games with a back injury, the 31-year old Dalembert has filled in nicely.

In the four games prior to Wednesday, Dalembert was averaging 16.5 points and 10 rebounds.

Against his former team, Dalembert scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

What’s next?
The Sixers will have four days to rejuvenate their bodies and minds. They have been together since training camp commenced on Oct. 1, which is 135 days of work and disappointment given they sit in ninth place in the East.

When the Sixers return for a Monday night practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, they will have 31 games to play in the regular season beginning at Minnesota on Feb. 20. They will then return home to face the champion Miami Heat on Feb. 23.

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid will miss the Sixers' next four games to minimize the risk of another aggravation of his left knee injury.

Embiid's targeted return date is March 3 against the Knicks. He'll miss games against the Wizards, Knicks, Warriors and Heat.

While Sixers doctors do not think Embiid is game-ready, they're encouraged by the progress he's made.

Embiid practiced fully with the Sixers on Thursday for the second straight day.

"I feel great. I want to play. If it was my decision, I’d be playing," Embiid said after practice Wednesday.

"I want to play, but those guys, they know what they’re doing. You’ve just got to trust the process."

Embiid has missed 14 of the Sixers' last 15 games, playing only against the Rockets in a nationally televised, sell-out game on Jan. 27. 

Erson Ilyasova trade means it's Dario Saric's time to shine

Erson Ilyasova trade means it's Dario Saric's time to shine

The departure of veteran Ersan Ilyasova means it's Dario Saric's time to shine.
 
With Ilyasova being traded to the Hawks Wednesday, Saric is now the man at the power forward spot. The 22-year-old rookie started the first 10 games of the season at the four. The Sixers acquired Ilyasova from Oklahoma City on Nov. 1, and the nine-year veteran took over the starting spot a couple weeks later.
 
Ilyasova had earned the role, starting 40 out of the 53 games he was with the Sixers while averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting 36 percent from three-point range. The native of Turkey also garnered the reputation around the organization for being a "true professional." Especially with the young Croatian Saric.
 
But now Saric has earned the starting nod. The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Saric was acquired from the Orlando Magic on draft night. In perhaps Sam Hinkie's second-best move, he was able to acquire Saric and re-acquire the Sixers' 2017 first-round pick (from the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade) for the rights to point guard Elfrid Payton. It was a two-year wait, but Saric is proving to be worth it.
 
With an increased role over the last six games, Saric is averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He's also shooting 51 percent from the field during that span. His three-point percentage has dipped a tad (34 percent), but his confidence is growing, taking almost six threes a game in the last six games.
 
Beyond the stat sheet, Saric has been an invaluable catalyst to the team. He brings plenty of grit. He's not afraid to mix it up down low and has grabbed several clutch rebounds. His unselfishness also stands out, most notably in a win against the Kings last month where he dished out six assists. If you haven't heard him talk off the court, he's also a whole lot of fun.

The Ilyasova trade, coupled with the trade of Nerlens Noel, could help out a couple of other Sixers as well. Saric is the only true four on the roster. Even during his impressive run over the last six games, Saric is averaging 27.8 minutes per game. He's played 30-plus minutes only five times this season. He's also played in all 56 games. Fatigue may become a factor for a rookie that's never played 82 games.

If Jahlil Okafor remains with the team, he'll obviously be the biggest benefactor of all this. It hasn't gone well when Okafor and Joel Embiid have been paired together, but with Embiid's knee injury, Okafor should see plenty of minutes if he's still here.

The other player that stands to benefit is second-year big man Richaun Holmes. Holmes' game is better-suited to play with Embiid. Holmes has shown the ability to hit from the outside and is a much better fit at the four from an athletic standpoint. It'd be interesting to see if Holmes could keep up with an opposing stretch four.

As for Saric, he now has 26 games to prove to the Sixers that he deserves to be in their starting lineup next season. If he does, the Sixers' future will look even brighter.