Ben Simmons and his Philadelphia 76ers have made a big Christmas Day statement by thumping NBA leaders Milwaukee Bucks 121-109.
There was a charged atmosphere for Philadelphia’s first home Christmas game in 31 years, a matchup featuring Joel Embiid and Simmons against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Centre Embiid outplayed Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, collecting 31 points and 11 rebounds to help the 3-point happy 76ers to triumph over their eastern conference frontrunners.
Point guard Simmons chimed in with 15 points, also adding a whopping 14 assists and seven rebounds.
For the 76ers, Tobia Harris sank five 3-pointers, Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz each had four and even Embiid hit three as part of Philly’s season-high 21 (on 44 attempts).
Sitting fourth in the east, the 76ers improved their record to 23-10 (16-2 at home) while the Bucks remain best in the league at 27-5.
Embiid using the national showcase to play like an MVP, notching his seventh game this season with 30 points and 10 rebounds.
The fired-up Sixers took the biggest halftime lead (21 points) by any team against the Bucks under coach Mike Budenholzer.
76ers coach Brett Brown said before the game the Bucks were “NBA royalty” but his team showed they can be challenged
With fans chanting “Trust the Process!” on Embiid free throws, the All-Star centre was worthy of the holiday highlight video.
📽 12.25.19 | @Bucks 📽
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 25, 2019
“I reminded our team, people in America have more appreciation for this day in the NBA,” Brown said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity.”
Middleton scored 31 points and Antetokounmpo had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Antetokounmpo got flustered over a perceived missed call and was whistled for a technical in the fourth.
“I’m not going to overvalue one game,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said, “but it’s a good barometer.”
Brand held a state-of-the-franchise press conference before the game and preached chemistry and continuity would eventually get the Sixers among the best in the East, a conference many pundits picked them to win.
“We are going to get there,” Brand said. “Home-court advantage is important but having Joel healthy in the playoff in May, June, that is important to us. We could still grow into a team that could be a No. 1 seed.”
Earlier, Jaylen Brown scored 30 points and Kemba Walker had 22 as the Boston Celtics beat defending champions Toronto Raptors 118-102 in Canada.