Justin Anderson scored a team-high 25 points off the bench as the 76ers close out the regular season on a 16 game winning streak, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 130-95 from the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.
The 76ers jumped on the Bucks early in the first quarter, but not before a sluggish onset in which Philadelphia connected on two of their first nine field goal attempts. The Bucks were equally as ineffective to open the night, knocking down just one field on their first seven shots, connecting twice in the first five minutes of play.
Once the 76ers got rolling, however, the first quarter quickly became an onslaught that the Bucks could not control.After missing all but 13 seconds of Tuesday night’s contest with the Atlanta Hawks after suffering a lacerated upper lip and chipped tooth, Dario Saric returned to action and made the most of his minutes. Saric scored five straight to spark a 7-0 76ers’ run that stretched the early lead to eight, 10-2. Saric didn’t miss a beat, finishing with 24 points on 10-19 from the floor.
Philadelphia connected on five consecutive field goals as part of a 17-0 run that put Philadelphia ahead 37-10 early in the quarter. Anderson was a huge factor in that scoring output, connecting on a pair of threes, scoring eight points in total during the offensive stretch. Anderson finished the evening 9-17, including 5-12 from beyond the arc, scoring 25 points in extended playing time, as the second year guard from Virginia logged 32 minutes, the most of his season.
The Bucks continued to struggle from the field, failing to score in nearly four minutes of play over that 76ers’ breakout run.
As the first quarter came to a close, the 76ers knocked down an eighth three pointer, marking the most threes made in a quarter this season for Philadelphia. The 76ers took a 46-18 lead into the second quarter, as Dario Saric led all scorers with 10 points, with T.J. McConnell and Justin Anderson trailing right behind with nine and eight points respectively.
The 76ers continued the offensive dominance into the second quarter, knocking down a tenth three pointer less than two minutes into the quarter. The deep three from Marco Bellinelli extended the Philadelphia lead to 31, 54-23. Bellinelli got the start Wednesday night in place of an injured J.J. Redick, who who was scratched with lower back tightness. Bellinelli finished with 13 points on the evening, knocking down 4-11 from the field.
Philadelphia used another quick scoring outburst to extend their lead further, and once more, as the 76ers picked up 12 of 14 points midway through the second quarter, as the lead grew to 41, 70-29. The Bucks fell cold, once again, from the field over this span, scoring just once in almost three minutes of play. Tony Snell would end that scoring drought with a bucket, and the Bucks used that score as slight momentum, collecting 11 of the game’s next 13 points, cutting slightly into the 76ers’ large lead, getting within 32, 72-40. It was the 76ers’ turn to fall under a dry spell, failing to score from the 5:04 mark through the 2:31 mark late in the second quarter.
Philadelphia scored eight of the quarter’s final 12 points, extending its lead back to 36, 80-44, as the half came to a close. The 80 point barrage set a Wells Fargo Center record for most points by any team in a half.The scoring total marked the seventh time the 76ers have scored at least 70 in the first half of a game this season, tied with the Golden State Warriors for most in the NBA. As the first 24 minutes came to a close, five 76ers had already reached double digits points.
Both teams struggled out of the second half gate, as the 76ers scored just twice in the first three minutes of action, and the Bucks mustered just one bucket nearly four minutes into the half. Shortly after, however, it was the Bucks’ turn to take early quarter momentum. Milwaukee scored 14 of 19 over a three minute stretch, cutting the 76ers’ lead to 31, 89-58.
The 76ers would then immediately use a quick 5-0 run to regrow their lead to 36, 94-58. Soon after, the Bucks would score seven consecutive points, trimming the lead under 30 points to 29, 100-71. The Bucks would eventually win the third quarter, 31-25, as a large portion of the 76ers’ minutes were doled out to reserves.
Through three quarters of play, it was all 76ers, 105-75.
Into the fourth quarter, the 76ers somewhat turned into a two-man show, as Richaun Holmes and Markelle Fultz took the offense over. Holmes scored eight points in the final frame, finishing with 19 points on 8-11 shooting in 27 minutes of action. Fultz picked up an additional four points in the quarter, but it was the other aspects of his game that shined in the fourth. Fultz earned his first career triple-double with his fourth quarter efforts, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 game minutes.
The Bucks came up with one final push, scoring seven of nine points to decrease the deficit to under 30, 113-84, but the 76ers immediately responded with a 9-2 run of their own, growing the lead to 122-86. In the end, the 76ers captured their 16th consecutive victory, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 130-95.
The win brings the 76ers’ season to a culmination, as Philadelphia breaks an NBA record by winning 16 straight games to finish a regular season, usurping the former record holders, the 1949-1950 Rochester Royals. Philadelphia ends the regular season 52-30 after sitting 36-30 through 66 games. The 76ers clinch the three seed in the Eastern Conference with the victory, but would not have needed to defeat Milwaukee to earn that spot, as the Cleveland Cavaliers inexplicably fell to the New York Knicks 110-98 to end their season 50-32.
As the three seed, the 76ers will take on the sixth seeded Miami Heat, who finished the regular season 44-38. The 76ers and Heat split the regular season series at two games a piece, as the 76ers won the first two contests but fell in the final two.
The first round of the NBA playoffs will begin Saturday afternoon, and all game ones will be played by Sunday night. While that time frame has been set, a definitive tip time has not been announced for the 76ers’ game one. As soon as tip is announced, 97.5 The Fanatic will keep you updated. Regardless of tip time, you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli, procuder and www.975thefanatic.com contributor