Markelle Fultz will face the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night for the second time in his career. The first occasion was a historic one.
In the regular season finale last year on Apr. 11, Fultz became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, posting 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at 19 years, 317 days old.
The Sixers blew out the Bucks that night, 130-95, winning their 16th straight game and securing the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
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One of the more memorable parts of that game was how Fultz's teammates reacted to his accomplishment. He was mobbed after grabbing the rebound to wrap up his triple-double, and doused in an impromptu celebration in the locker room after the game.
"They poured strawberry milk, chocolate milk, water," Fultz said. "They drowned me with everything, but it's all love and appreciation."
• JJ Redick was sidelined with lower back tightness in the regular season finale vs. the Bucks and Ben Simmons had a rare quiet night, only playing 22 minutes, which led to a lot of time together in the second half for Fultz and T.J. McConnell. That's a contrast to these past two games, where Brett Brown has preferred McConnell over Fultz down the stretch.
Though Fultz got the start at the point in Tuesday's 133-132 overtime loss to the Pistons (see observations) with Simmons out because of back tightness, scoring 13 points on 6 for 9 shooting, Brown thought McConnell was a better option when the game was on the line.
"We ended up going with T.J. for defensive reasons," Brown told reporters. "We've learned that T.J. defensively has that NBA experience. I think T.J. was 3 for 3 in the fourth period and really had a heck of a fourth period. But defensively especially, and he produced on offense. We ended up going with a more senior type of player and were in a position to walk out of here with a win, and we just came up short at the end."
The numbers back up Brown's assertion that McConnell was the better defensive option Tuesday night. Per NBA.com/Stats, Detroit scored 76 points on 65 possessions when McConnell was on the floor, compared to 60 points on 45 possessions when Fultz was on the court. Pistons players shot 3 for 10 when guarded by McConnell, 9 for 12 when defended by Fultz.
Fultz has clearly struggled defensively, especially when it comes to making the right reads on ball screens. Still, the argument for playing Fultz late in the fourth quarter and overtime is more about the future than the present - if Brown is committed to "growing" Fultz, as he's said he is, perhaps he'll start giving Fultz more late-game exposure soon.
• The 3-0 Bucks are one of four undefeated teams left in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.3 points, 16 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, has led Milwaukee in scoring and rebounding every game. Khris Middleton has made a ridiculous 15 of 23 three-pointers.
Below are the essentials for Wednesday night's game. There's no word yet on Simmons' status.
Jerryd Bayless, G, 6-3/210, No. 0
Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10, 220, No. 43
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225, No. 22
Robert Covington, F, 6-9/225, No. 33
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260, No. 21
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200, No. 20
* Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200, No. 11
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240, No. 5
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185, No. 30
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190, No. 12
* Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205, No. 18
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240, No. 31
JJ Redick, G 6-4/195, No. 17 13
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/250, No. 9
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190, No. 23
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230, No. 25
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200, No. 8
* Two-way player