East Notes: Sixers, Joel Embiid, Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bulls

76ers

Center Joel Embiid said he is more focused on winning a championship than he is with the league MVP award, via Melissa Rohin of Fox Sports.

“What I can control is to try to win a championship,” Embiid told Rohlin. “And I feel like that’s the only way I’m going to get that respect. So, that’s where all the focus is.”

Embiid is second in the NBA to Mavericks star Luka Doncic in scoring — and just barely. Through Tuesday, Doncic is averaging 33.2 points to Embiid’s 33.0. Embiiid is also ninth in the NBA in rebounding (10.4 rpg).

“Being in this position the last two or three years or whatever is the same thing, so it’s like, ‘Eh, OK, just focus on the one thing I can control,’” Embiid told Rohlin. “And if it happens, whatever. But if I do win a championship, that would be better than anything else.”

  • In case you missed it, the idea of Sixers guard James Harden returning to the Rockets in the offseason seems not so far-fetched. We have that full post here.

Bucks

Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo played more than 10 minutes in a game for the first time since Feb. 14, when he went for 33 points in a win over the Nets on Tuesday.

Still, Antetokounmpo said he is being cautious and trying to stay healthy when it means the most.

“Right now, I know I have to put myself in a position to be healthy,” he said, via Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “Because I’m a religious guy, I really believe that when I hit knees with (Celtics big man Mike Muscala), that was my first warning. Then, the Chicago game, I maybe (was) not supposed to play, but my stubborn side said, ‘No, I want to compete.’ And I hit my hand, that’s the second warning from God.

“And then the third warning, He said maybe you stay (off) a few games and you should not be playing this game. I’m like, ‘Nope. I want to play this game because I love it, I’m obsessed with the game of basketball.’ And I hurt my knee again. That’s the third warning, now I have to listen.”

  • Milwaukee, of course, has won 15 straight entering Wednesday’s game vs. the Magic. “It’s really fun, it’s really fun,” Antetokounmpo said, via Jack Maloney of CBS Sports. “We haven’t done it in a long time. Right now we’re playing great basketball, we’re playing together, guys are making shots, we’re defending, we’re out there competing, we’re doing whatever it takes to win, we’re building good habits.”
  • The Bucks’ win streak is the longest in the league this season and fourth-longest in team history.

Bulls

Coach Billy Donovan has been mostly pleased with the Bulls’ defense lately, but seems to think things need to get better offensively.

“I was pretty pleased with the way we guarded,” Donovan said after Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors, via Sam Smith of Bulls.com. “There were some opportunities where we let the ball come into the post too easy and we need to do a better job there. But I thought the guys battled and competed; we held them down. It was a low scoring game and we did get hurt, no question, on the glass. There were loose balls, some rotational blockouts. Clearly there were (some) where they were bigger, stronger, more physical and more athletic and were able to play above us; that happened.

“But it’s hard to have a good offensive night when you turn it over (20) times. I thought the fact they took 23 more shots than we did, it’s hard to put up points. We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to.”

Guard Patrick Beverley agreed, saying that guard Zach LaVine and small forward DeMar DeRozan may need to look to score even more. 

“I told the guys after the game, I feel like DeMar and Zach, they need to shoot the ball a little more for us to beat a team that we need to beat, especially in the playoffs,’’ Beverley said, via Smith. “The goal is not to get to the playoffs. The goal is to get to the playoffs and compete. Not just to go there and be a wash rag for another team. Not even only that, but we had 15 turnovers with the first unit. I think I was the leading rebounder in the first unit. That’s unacceptable. The first unit has to be better, and we will.”

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