MILWAUKEE — The 76ers needed someone to step up Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Three-time All-Star Ben Simmons missed his fourth straight game with what coach Doc Rivers said was the flu. MVP candidate Joel Embiid was a late scratch with right shoulder soreness. And this was a pivotal game for the Sixers and their Eastern Conference title hopes.

However, their supporting cast could not produce.

As a result, the Bucks rolled to a 132-94 victory at Fiserv Forum. The outcome was all but decided after three quarters. Both teams rested most of their starters in the final quarter.

Seth Curry paced the Sixers starters with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. However, he was the only starter who made any kind of impact.

Tobias Harris had nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, and two blocks, but he made just 4 of 10 shots. The game marked the power forward’s second game back after missing three with a right knee bone bruise. It was obvious that his knee is still bothering him.

The Sixers were paced by rookie Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton, who scored 15 points apiece off the bench.

Giannis Antetokoumpo finished with game highs of 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in 23 minutes, 43 seconds.

The Sixers (39-21) extended their losing streak to a season-high four games. The conference’s second-place team dropped a game behind the first-place Brookyn Nets with 12 games remaining. The Sixers’ lead over the Bucks sank to 1½ games.

» READ MORE: Ben Simmons feeling stronger while battling ‘flu’

Milwaukee (37-22) has swept the teams’ three meetings this season and has won five straight dating back to last season. Owning the 3-0 lead, the Bucks hold the tiebreaker for seeding should the teams finish the regular season with the same record.

Curry said being swept will not have a psychological impact if the teams meet in the playoffs.

“A couple of years ago, I was in Portland,” he said. “We got swept, we got beat four times by OKC and we beat them in five [games] in the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s a completely different game playoff time. I won’t say it means nothing, but it doesn’t mean much.”

Embiid missed two of this season’s three meetings against Milwaukee. He sat out the 109-105 overtime loss on March 17 with a left knee bone bruise. On Saturday, Embiid had been listed as a starter 30 minutes before the game, but was ruled out after the lineups were submitted. Teams can change starters up until tip-off.

This marked the 19th game Embiid has missed this season. Ten of those games came while sidelined with the bone bruise. But he was a late scratch on at least three occassions due to various other injuries/ailments.

Meanwhile, Rivers said often that Simmons’ illness is not related to the coronavirus. Like Embiid, he’s missed two of the three games against the Bucks. The Sixers were also without reserves Furkan Korkmaz (sprained right ankle) and Paul Reed (COVID-19 protocol).

Rivers was asked if Embiid would have been able to play if Saturday’s contest was a playoff game.

“I’m assuming yes,” he said. “But honestly, I can’t give you that answer. I didn’t ask Joel one question, you know, about his injury today. I don’t. The trainer came in [and reported on Embiid]. I think in most cases, if it’s a playoff game, most guys can play.

“ I don’t think Ben could have played today if it was a playoff game. And I don’t know if Joel could have played either, for that matter. But it is a big difference from playoff games and regular-season games.”

For a while, the Sixers looked like a frustrated and poor-shooting squad.

They shot 37.8% from the field, including going 7-of-31 on three-pointers. In the first half, the Sixers hit 33.3% of their shots, including making just 3 of 20 threes.

Dwight Howard, Rivers, and Harris all received technical fouls for their communication with the referees in the second quarter. Then the team received a delay-of-game technical foul in the fourth.

Howard’s technical came 1:48 into the second quarter. Rivers received his at the 6:42 mark, while Harris’ tech came 1:54 before intermission. The delay-of-game tech came with 9:49 remaining.

For Howard, it marked his 15th technical foul of the season. The reserve center will receive a $5,000 fine and serve a one-game suspension after his next technical.

“I didn’t think Dwight should have gotten the tech,” Rivers said. “That’s basically why I got my tech. I think that was my third tech or my second tech of the year. I wasn’t even swearing. I was literally saying that’s not fair and I got a tech for that. Dwight got a tech for clapping.”

Rivers pointed out it wasn’t a situation where a foul was called on Howard on the other end of the court. In those situations, players sometimes receive technicals for arguing the call in what the official deems a disrespectful manner.

“There is not another player on the floor, in my opinion, that would have gotten a tech for the same thing Dwight did,” he said. ‘Not one player would have gotten that tech. But it just happens to be Dwight Howard and he gets techs. That’s his 15th and now we are on the threshold.”

Rivers wants Howard to remain aggressive, yet stay away from the verbal technicals. He said the other technical fouls are going to happen because of exchanges with other players.

Despite his technical, Howard was one of the Sixers’ few first-half bright spots.

The big man ended up with 12 points, on 5-for-8 shooting, to go with 12 rebounds, two steals, and one block. Seven of his points and eight of his rebounds came in the first half.

The Sixers’ starting lineup of Danny Green, Harris, Mike Scott, Curry, and George Hill combined to shoot 5-for-22, including 2-for-12 on three-pointers, in the first half.

Despite that, they somehow managed to hold the Bucks to 50 points after two quarters while scoring 40. The Sixers then opened the third quarter on a 14-5 run to close the gap to one point after Curry’s three-pointer at the 8:36 mark.

After the Bucks responded with a 5-0 run, Curry hit another three to close the gap to three points (60-57). But then the Sixers appeared to stop playing defense.

Milwaukee responded with a 15-0 run to break the game wide open at 75-57. Antetokounmpo scored seven points during the run. Then the Bucks went on to take a 86-63 lead into the fourth quarter.

“I don’t remember, to be honest,” Curry said when asked what went wrong.

He went on to say he feels like the Bucks hit some threes and the Sixers had some defensive breakdowns.

“Yeah, like I said, I’ve got to watch the film and figure it out,” Curry said. “I don’t remember what happened.”

» READ MORE: Sixers center Joel Embiid a late scratch from game against Bucks