Bucks vs. 76ers score, takeaways: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia dominate Giannis and Co. on NBA Christmas Day



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In what proved to be an excellent gift for the fans of Philadelphia, the 76ers dominated the Milwaukee Bucks in the battle between the two East heavyweights on Christmas Day and walked away with a 121-109 win. Thanks to some suffocating defense and some hot shooting from long distance, the Sixers controlled the contest virtually from the opening tip and made things difficult for Milwaukee all afternoon.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the reigning NBA MVP, but he wasn't the best player on the floor on Wednesday. That honor goes to Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid, who paced Philadelphia with 31 points, and 11 rebounds. Embiid got some serious help, too, as five other Sixers -- Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Al Horford and Furkan Korkmaz -- all also scored in double figures. Embiid had a great game offensively, but his defense was equally impressive as he and the rest of the Sixers held Antetokounmpo to just 18 points on 8-of-27 shooting from the field. Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 31 points and eight rebounds.
With the win, the Sixers move to 18-14 all-time on Christmas Day, while the Bucks fall to 3-3. Though it was only a game in December, the matchup between the two teams certainly felt like it could be a potential preview of the Eastern Conference finals. With that said, here are some takeaways from the Sixers' impressive win over the Bucks. 

Sixers have a lot of options to throw at Giannis  

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most difficult players to guard in the entire NBA, and it's very difficult -- virtually impossible sometimes even -- for one single player to stop him. However, the Sixers have several players capable of potentially slowing him for a period of time, and that could work to their advantage should the two teams ultimately meet in the postseason. Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons and Mike Scott all spent some time guarding Antetokounmpo on Wednesday afternoon, and though he still put up decent counting stats (18 points and 14 rebounds), the Sixers were able to largely limit his production and efficiency; Giannis was just 8 of 27 from the floor, and he finished well below his season average of 31 points per performance. Embiid especially had a major impact on Antetokounmpo, as he can match Giannis physically and made things difficult for him every time he tried to drive to the rim. The Sixers have the length and versatility to frustrate Antetokounmpo, and it worked on Christmas Day.

Giannis' deep ball still needs some work

The one glaring weakness in Antetokounmpo's game has long been his ability to space the floor with his shot. His lack of range has made it easier for defenses to prepare for him by packing the paint and making it difficult for him to drive. Antetokounmpo obviously knows this, and he worked on that area of his game over the offseason. He's attempting more 3s per game this season than he ever has before, and he's tied a career high by shooting 34 percent from deep. All of this is encouraging for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. However, after his performance against the Sixers on Wednesday, it's clear that his deep ball still needs quite a bit of work. Antetokounmpo was 0 for 7 from deep for the game, and it got to the point that the Sixers were just daring him to shoot:
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Until Antetokounmpo is able to consistently knock down 3s in big games, defenses will continue to give him space, and it will continue to be an issue for Milwaukee.

Embiid had a Christmas message for the league

Embiid has been on the receiving end of his fair share of criticism this season, but he was the best player on the floor on Wednesday, despite the presence of the reigning NBA MVP. Embiid set the tone for the Sixers from the jump, as his aggression on both ends of the floor allowed Philadelphia to jump out to an early lead and never look back. In a joint effort between the organization and player to keep him fresh for the postseason, Embiid's minutes are down compared to last season, and as a result his per game stats are as well. However, on any given day when he's healthy and focused, Embiid is capable of being the best player in any given game, and one of the most dominant forces in the entire league. 
"A lot of people have forgotten who I am," Embiid said after the win. With his performance on Christmas Day, it's safe to say he reminded everyone. 

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