Fans of professional wrestling in the 1990s and early 2000s will appreciate a particular soundbite from Philadelphia 76ers center Dwight Howard following the team’s 109-105 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Despite leading by 14 at halftime and as much as 19 in the second half, the Sixers saw two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetkounmpo carry the Bucks to a comeback victory, one that was capped by a personal 7-0 run in the extra frame. Following the final bucket of Antetokounmpo’s spree – a mid-range, fadeaway jumper over Howard, giving the Bucks a 105-98 lead with 1:11 in overtime – the “Greek Freak” raced towards the Sixers’ logo and sat on the floor.
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The celebration on the home court of the Sixers quickly drew the ire of much of the 3,000-plus fans inside the Wells Fargo Center as they showered Antetokounmpo with boos. Howard was the most vocal Philadelphia player to respond to the unique celebration.
“I wanted to go and ‘Stone Cold Stunner’ him, but I had already got one tech,” Howard said. “It’s basketball. He wanted to have fun, but we’ll see these guys again. Today, we allowed them to get back into the game. We did it. We can’t control that.”
A “stunner” is a professional wrestling term referring to the “three-quarter facelock jawbreaker maneuver.” The move was made famous by retired professional wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Antetokounmpo didn’t back down or apologize for his actions, noting that it was all in fun.
“Is there something wrong with having fun?” he said. “… That’s what I wanted to do at the time, and that’s what I did. I haven’t seen it. But as I said, I was just trying to have fun. Trying to enjoy the moment.”
Sixers Lose Sole Possession of First Place in Eastern Conference
With the Sixers’ loss, the Bucks’ win, and a victory by the Brooklyn Nets all coming on Wednesday night, things have tightened up even closer atop the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia and Brooklyn are currently tied for the number one seed in the East with identical 28-13 records, while Milwaukee is just 1.5 games behind the pair at 26-14.
All three teams are idle on Thursday, and the 76ers and Bucks will not play again until Saturday. The Nets will have a great chance at jumping ahead of Philadelphia Friday night, as they face the second-worst team in the conference in the Orlando Magic.
The Nets are currently riding a six-game winning streak (tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the longest in the NBA) and have won 14 out of their last 15. The Bucks have won five straight and 10 of 11.
Harris, Simmons, Korkmaz Star in Loss
Though the ultimate result was a loss, there was plenty to like from the Sixers during their primetime ESPN showdown with the Bucks. Some of the highlights came from the usual suspects, while others came from lesser-known names.
With Philadelphia trailing Milwaukee 93-90 with exactly three seconds to go in regulation, 2016 draft pick Furkan Korkmaz took the inbound pass from Shake Milton in the left corner and calmly drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 0.4 seconds to go and send it to overtime. The Turkey native finished with 11 points including a trio of connections from deep, as well as two rebounds, two assists, and a block.
Wednesday was Korkmaz’ fifth straight game scoring in double-figures and 10th straight contest in which he made a 3-pointer.
Milton led all bench players in the tilt with 15 points and had a game-best plus/minus of 17. Tobias Harris posted a team-high 19 points and secured nine rebounds, while Ben Simmons posted a triple-double of 13 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.