MILWAUKEE — There are 5 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season and a heck of a lot remains undecided.
The Eastern Conference playoff race could undergo a major overhaul before the 76ers complete the final 20 games left on their schedule.
Perhaps that’s why Brett Brown wants no parts of playoff-seeding conversations.
“The standings and worrying about that, I’m not there,” the coach said. “I’m really not there.
“I’m looking at a whole other place. I hope it’s the right place. I think it is. It’s just ways to get better.”
Well, they didn’t get better Sunday night in a 118-110 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Some might argue they took a step back. The Sixers (34-28) blew a 20-point lead in the first half and then a 19-point one after intermission. They also committed 26 turnovers, which led to 36 points by the Bucks. Joel Embiid (seven), Ben Simmons (six) and JJ Redick (five) combined for 18 of those turnovers.
“I could leave the press conference now and you guys would have the whole story,” said Brown, pinpointing the turnovers as the reason for the setback.
A victory would have moved the Sixers into fifth place in the conference standings. However, they remain in sixth place, one game behind the fifth-place Wizards.
The loss snapped their two-game winning streak. The Sixers also failed to win consecutive road games for the first time since Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 against the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee (34-29) snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Bucks’ haymaker came by way of a 21-0 run to end the third quarter. Before that, the Sixers had a 86-72 lead with 6 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third. Milwaukee went on to take a 93-86 lead into the fourth following the run. Nine of the Sixers turnovers came in the quarter.
“We just kept turning the ball over,” Simmons said of the 21-0 run. “Offensively, we didn’t make any plays, didn’t execute.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 10 of his game-high 35 points during the run. Eric Bledsoe added 22 points and seven assists for the Bucks.
The Sixers were paced by Dario Saric’s 25 points. Embiid added 19 points and eight rebounds. Redick had 17 points, while Simmons added 12 points and a career-high 15 assists for his 24th double-double of the season.
The Sixers had a little scare in the first quarter.
Embiid injured his left knee when Khris Middleton ran into it with 46.6 seconds left in the quarter. The center was setting a screen for Redick. Embiid got up and tried to limp it off. However, he was quickly subbed out by Amir Johnson at the 46-second mark. Sixers trainer Kevin Johnson checked out Embiid’s knee and he returned at the start of the second quarter.
That was all part of a wacky first half. The Sixers built a sizable lead, went to their bench and eventually lost the lead. They regrouped to take a double-digit cushion at the break.
Philly scored the first 10 points of the game and had a commanding 20-point lead (41-21) thanks in large part to Saric and Simmons. Both players were taken out to rest 93 seconds earlier.
At the time, Saric had 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting to go with three rebounds and a blocked shot. Meanwhile, Simmons had four points, eight assists and two turnovers.
They both returned to the game with 8:27 left in the half. However, by that time, the Sixers had lost the momentum. The Bucks went on to knot the score at 51 on John Henson’s foul shots with 6:09 before intermission.
However, the Sixers immediately responded with a 7-0 run and led by 72-60 at the break. They went on take an 81-62 cushion with 10:15 left in the third. But the Sixers, once again, went to their bench with 8:17 left in the quarter.
That’s when Marco Belinelli came in for Robert Covington. Then with the Sixers up 11 (83-72), Johnson subbed for Embiid and T.J. McConnell came in for Redick at the 7:11 mark of the quarter. Then Ersan Ilyasova subbed for Saric at the 4:50 mark with the Sixers up 86-78. Going to different lineups, Brown mixed some of his starters with the reserves. However, the moment was lost. The Buck took their first lead of the game (87-86) on Bledsoe’s layup with 2:07 left in the quarter and never looked back.
“It felt like that and the stats say that,” Brown said of the reserves hindering the Sixers. “I give Milwaukee way more credit than if I look at the reserves.
“I think if we’re all sort of fair and reasonable, you look at this game and they’re desperate. …. We needed to fight for 48 minutes and we couldn’t.”
There was a huge Philly presence in the arena. The Rights To Rickey Sanchez podcast sponsored a trip to Milwaukee for more than 400 members of the Trust the Process crew sitting in a section in the upper level.