Two Eastern Conference powerhouses in the 2020-21 NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers, will continue their two-game mini-series on Saturday. In their two previous meetings this season, the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks prevailed over their conference rivals on both occasions.
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid and co. have faced a slew of injuries lately, which has stunted their dominance. The Golden State Warriors snapped the Philadelphia 76ers' four-game winning streak on Monday.
The Philadelphia 76ers then lost to the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks and will look to snap their three-game skid on Saturday.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Milwaukee Bucks Prediction
The Milwaukee Bucks have a clear advantage entering this matchup, as they've already beaten the Philadelphia 76ers twice this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers will miss Ben Simmons for the fourth straight game, though, as he is recovering from a non-COVID related illness.
Ben Simmons has been extremely valuable at both ends of the floor. His defensive prowess is unmatched in the league right now, while his passing skills have elevated the efficacy of the Philadelphia 76ers' offense.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks boast an entirely healthy roster. They are one of the few teams in the league with no reported injuries or questionable players.
The Philadelphia 76ers had no answers for the Milwaukee Bucks' three-point shooting in the last match between the two teams. The Bucks shot 50% from downtown, shooting 20-40 threes, while the 76ers could only respond with 12 threes of their own.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been averaging stellar numbers and could be a key player against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
On that note, let's have a look at a hypothetical combined starting five of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Milwaukee Bucks Combined 5
Point Guard - Jrue Holiday l Shooting Guard - Khris Middleton l Small Forward - Tobias Harris l Power Forward - Giannis Antetokounmpo l Center - Joel Embiid.
Both the teams feature All-Stars and MVP-caliber players, so their hypothetical combined 5 looks spectacular.
The absence of the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons means the Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday would feature in the point guard position. Holiday has been excellent for the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
Although his numbers don't show it, the 30-year-old guard has distributed and shot the ball well. However, he is most valued for his perimeter defense, so players like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard have called Holiday an underrated defensive matchup.
Although Khris Middleton plays the small forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, his shooting prowess and ability to play off-ball make him a great shooting guard as well.
He didn't receive an All-Star selection this year, but his production hasn't suffered. Middleton is averaging 20.3 points, six rebounds and a career-high 5.6 assists per game. He is attempting more shots than ever before and is also shooting at 43% from the three-point range.
Meanwhile, Tobias Harris generally plays the power forward for the Philadelphia 76ers but can play either forward position. The 6' 8" forward's surge this season is one of the reasons for the Philadelphia 76ers' success this year.
He is shooting at a career-best 52% from the field and knocking down 40% of his three-point shots. Harris has also improved at the defensive end of the floor. Coach Doc Rivers praised his increased effort, saying:
"Everyone works on their offense, and few players really work on thinking about defense going into games...we’re going into shootaround, and we start going through plays, and Tobias knew what we were talking about...He knew the actions, and he was really into the gameplan. That makes you a better defender, and you can see that’s an area that has been vastly improved."
The reigning MVP and DPOY is back in action after missing a chunk of games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the reckoning for his third MVP award this season. Although his chances of getting a significant number of votes are slim, his brilliance on the court is something that hasn't been seen in a long time.
He is a walking double-double, and his drives to the rim are so lethal that coaches have coined the term 'Giannis Wall', which is a defensive strategy to create a wall of defenders between the Greek Freak and the basket.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming one of the best power forwards in the league's history. He is so dominant that analysts and Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal himself have called him 'Baby Shaq'.
Finally, for the center position in our hypothetical starting five, we have another MVP candidate, Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid.
The Cameroonian big man is one of the most dominant centers in the league right now. He is averaging a whopping 30 points and also grabbing 11.1 boards per game.
Embiid has carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference with his clutch shots and late-game heroics. Although he has missed 18 games this season, his dominance is undeniable, and he might become the first center since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000 to win the MVP award.
With Antetokounmpo and Embiid in the frontcourt alongside Holiday, Harris and Middleton, this combined starting 5 could be one of the strongest defensive lineups ever.