Whatever needs to be done to give us seven more games between the 76ers and Bucks in May, has to happen.
On Thursday in Philadelphia, Joel Embiid proved to be the world’s biggest pinch while Giannis Antetokounmpo put up another astonishing stat line as the road team earned a 128-122 win.
Early in the game, Embiid, who posted his second career triple double in the loss, got into a skirmish with Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe. The interaction led to Bledsoe getting tossed from the game, leaving the already short-handed Bucks without their third-leading scorer.
But when you have Giannis, he can find a way to make up for that production.
Playing like he was fueled by Embiid claiming he is the league’s “most unstoppable” player after a win in Milwaukee last month, Antetokounmpo reminded the road fans why he’ll finish no worse than second in the MVP vote this season.
He went for 45 points, 13 boards, six assists and five blocks, including one on Embiid that looked like it might have left the 7-footer in serious pain after he landed on his back.
Similar to the Sunday in Milwaukee that left Embiid inspired to proclaim his dominance, Philadelphia looked like it had a response for the Greek Freak.
Even without Jimmy Butler, the 76ers had enough pieces to show why they could be a problem in the postseason.
Ben Simmons ran the offense as smoothly as he could, collecting a game-high 13 assists. J.J. Redick chipped in 29 points with five made threes, and Mike Scott showed what he can do as a floor spacer, going 6-for-8 from deep filling in for Butler in the starting lineup.
But in the end, this was about Embiid and Giannis.
While the 76ers committed to their approach of allowing Giannis to get what he wants while slowing down the rest of the team, Embiid tried to get the best of the rest of the Bucks.
From Bledsoe’s early ejection to his work against every defender he faced that wasn’t Antetokounmpo, Embiid showed how much of a load he can be.
The big fella went for 34-13-13 with three blocks and two steals. He went just 12-for-31 from the field, but also connected on three triples.
In the end, though, Giannis was too much to overcome.
Strong contributions from Khris Middleton and George Hill made Antetokounmpo’s job a bit easier, but he was the driving force in a game-ending 15-4 run.
He had three assists in the closing moments and another big block on Embiid when the Bucks led by two with less than a minute remaining.
The win secured the best record in the NBA for the Bucks and left the 76ers in position to potentially drop from the Eastern Conference's third seed in the season’s final week, if they continue to stagger like they have since finally beating the fourth-place Celtics on March 20.
The bad blood between the Bucks and 76ers hasn’t boiled over just yet, but if they meet once more, the chances of that happening increase dramatically.
With all its new pieces and whatever experiences come from winning a first-round series, Philadelphia carries itself like it's confident it can handle business in the playoffs.
With the best record in the league and a potential MVP, the Bucks have just as much faith they will go from not getting out the first round to representing the East in the Finals.
However, one of these teams has to be wrong. On Thursday, the Bucks had all the right answers and looked every part the East’s best team while improving on their NBA-best 27-14 road record.
But maybe the 76ers will have a rebuttal in May. If we’re lucky, these squads will get a chance to settle their debate then.