MILWAUKEE — Brett Brown wanted the 76ers to fight. And that they did.
Yet, their performance didn’t lead to a different road outcome. The Sixers fought as hard as their coach asked them to, but ultimately suffered a 112-101 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.
“I mean, it’s no moral victories," Tobias Harris said. "But at the end of the day, this for us was like one of the first games we actually had some life to how we play.
“So obviously, we want to win every game we play in. But .. we’ll take this one and will learn from it and we will get better at it.”
The loss extended the Sixers’ losing streak to four games. It was also their fifth straight road loss and 11th in 13 games. The Sixers (31-21) are 9-19 on the road.
“Any time you have adversity, that forces the group to come together,” Al Horford said. "I believe that this will help our group.
“Right now, we are figuring it out, but I was encouraged by our fight tonight and how we competed.”
They pulled within six points (99-93) with 6 minutes, 56 seconds remaining. However, the Bucks responded with a 13-2 run to clinch the game.
Milwaukee improved their NBA-best record to 44-7 while winning for the 12th time in their last 13 games. The Bucks became one of just seven teams in NBA history to win 44 of their first 51 games.
On this night, the Sixers shot better on three-pointers than they did on two-point attempts. They made 19 of 45 threes (42.2%) and only 18 of 54 two-point shots (33.3 %).
Brown credits his team’s success behind the three-point line to his point guard.
“Ben Simmons did a great job tonight producing the volume of three-point shots that we took as they packed the paint on him,” Brown said. “He deserves a lot of credit for orchestrating this plan of attack along with the 14 rebounds he had. His game was excellent tonight.”
However, this wasn’t a good performance for Joel Embiid.
The Sixers’ perennial All-Star center finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 block. However, he made just 6 of 26 field goals and was criticized by the TNT broadcasting crew for his conditioning and body language. Such is life these days for the 25-year-old.
“I shoot the ball the way I do,” said Embiid, who went 3-for-10 on three-pointers. “Tonight, I missed a lot of wide-open looks. So we came into the game with a game-plan of shooting lot of threes, especially with the way the guard us, the way they defend us ...
“You got to do it, and I missed a lot of wide-open ones. So it’s just on to the next one. Some nights you make some. Some night you don’t.”
Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo had game highs of 36 points and 20 rebounds for the Bucks.
Harris paced the Sixers with 25 points while making 5 of 6 three-pointers. Horford had 15 points. The power forward made five of a career-high 12 three-point attempts. Simmons finished with 11 points 8 assists, 2 steals and 4 turnovers to go with his 14 rebounds.
From the start, Antetokounmpo showed why he’s favored to win a second consecutive league MVP. The four-time All-Star had 19 points and 10 rebounds by intermission.
Embiid had a first half he would like to forget.
The Sixers center missed nine of his 10 shots en route to scoring four points through the first two quarters. However, Philly was able stay competitive thanks in large part to Harris. Twelve of the small forward’s points in the half came on 5-of-10 shooting — including going 2-for-3 on three-pointers.
The teams played through eight lead changes and eight ties before the Bucks went into the locker room up, 54-51, at the half.
The Sixers tried to feed Embiid in the post at the start of the second half to get him in rhythm. He had his first shot blocked by Brook Lopez. He followed that up by missing a three-pointer. Then after splitting a pair of foul shots, Embiid missed another three-pointer. His first made basket of the second half came on a layup to give the Sixers a 57-56 lead with 9:46 left in the third quarter.
But the Bucks responded with a 14-0 run to take a 70-57 lead on Wesley Matthews’ three-pointer with 7:16 left in the quarter.
Sixers two-way player Marial Shayok (3 points) made his NBA debut.
Before the game, Simmons and Embiid learned which team they would play for in the 69th NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Feb. 16.
Los Angeles Lakers point guard LeBron James selected Lakers teammate Anthony Davis with the first overall pick in the draft. Then Embiid was selected second by Antetokounmpo in the first round of the draft, designated for starters.
James later selected Simmons with the 12th overall pick in the second round (reserves).
Embiid was voted an Eastern Conference All-Star starter for the third consecutive season on Jan. 23.
James (West) and Antetokounmpo (East) led the 10 starters chosen in voting by fans, players, and a panel of reporters. Simmons was named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve on Jan. 30.
James and Antetokoumpo served as team captains after finishing as the top vote-getters in their conferences. They selected rosters from the starters, reserves and special All-Stars on Thursday.
Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Simmons, Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Domantas Sabonis will join James on Team LeBron.