Days after Ben Simmons called the Sixers "soft" and Joel Embiid cited the team's spacing issues, Philadelphia suffered its fourth consecutive loss -- all on the road -- Thursday night in Milwaukee.
"I think it puts a lot of things in perspective," forward Al Horford said. "And desperation. We lost four in a row now. It's like finding ourselves. Trying to figure it out. I think good is going to come out of this."
But while the Sixers were trying to sort things out, the Bucks came to play. This game had been circled on their calendar since a 121-109 loss on Christmas in Philadelphia.
On Thursday, Milwaukee struck first, then struck again. Although the game remained close early on, the Bucks got the final say, defeating the 76ers 112-101.
The Bucks extended their lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference to seven games. The Sixers, meanwhile, fell to 9-19 away from home and are in sixth place overall in the East.
It was a tight game at the half, with Milwaukee hanging on to a three-point lead. Embiid struggled offensively, scoring just four points. Things didn't improve much for him in the second half. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-26 shooting.
With just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Bucks were able to create separation and build a 13-point lead. They maintained a double-digit advantage heading into the final quarter, but the Sixers closed the gap to single digits just three minutes into the fourth.
After the game, Embiid said his left hand -- on which he still wears a protective wrap during games -- did bother him. Still, he wouldn't attribute his spotty shooting night to any physical discomfort. Instead, Embiid said he needs to adjust his mental state and get back to enjoying the game.
"I'm trying to get back to the fun Joel," Embiid said. "Smile a little more. The whole season I told myself I was going to be serious. I felt like everyone looked at [me] in a way that I'm moody or I might not care. I do. I want to win. But at the same time, I try to have a different attitude. Obviously, it hasn't been working. Gotta go back to that fun Joel, fun personality. [But] still locked in. Try to help us any way I can."
Sixers coach Brett Brown and several of Philadelphia's players said that while it was another loss, this one felt a little different. Unlike some previous defeats, forward Tobias Harris said he thought the team played with more effort against Milwaukee and that shots just weren't falling. Like Horford, he vowed that Philadelphia would come out of this slump a more connected bunch.
"You do find out a lot about culture when you go through ups and downs," Harris said. "It's how you get through it. I believe this team is a great team and a team that is destined for excellence. We hold ourselves to that standard. We'll continue to push each other and be ready for the next one."
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