76ers beat Bucks, show Eastern Conference still up for grabs

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The Bucks and 76ers entered the season as Eastern Conference favorites.

Milwaukee has shown why. The Bucks have been the NBA’s best team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is MVP favorite. Even amid roster turnover, the supporting cast is jelling.

Philadelphia… well. The 76ers have looked more uneven. Neither Joel Embiid nor Ben Simmons has sustained dominance. The offense sometimes looks clunky without enough shooting.

But Philadelphia showed its championship upside in a 121-109 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday. In the first Christmas NBA game in Philadelphia since 1988, the 76ers got up big early and built a 29-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Embiid led Philadelphia with 31 points and 11 rebounds, asserting himself both offensively and defensively. Simmons (15 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds) found numerous ways to help his team.

The Bucks have looked especially lethal with Antetokounmpo draining 3-pointers lately. But, as improved as he is, he’s not reliable from beyond the arc. Antetokounmpo shot 0-for-7 on 3s today.

Can Embiid remain healthy and active in the spring and summer? Will Simmons’ lack of a jumper bite him when teams scheme more in the playoffs? Will Antetokounmpo sink more 3-pointers, or at least stop hoisting so many, when it counts most?

These questions won’t get answered for a while. One regular-season game proves nothing.

But it at least shows it’s far too early to crown Milwaukee.