NBA basketball in Milwaukee is back with a bang as the Bucks locked horns with the Philadelphia 76ers in what promised to be a thrilling home opener – and it did not disappoint. With Fiserv Forum ready to host the Eastern Conference giants, the air was thick with anticipation with a matchup that not only kicked off the new season but which also brought along storylines and drama between the two.
Here are 10 reasons why even the most casual basketball fan shouldn’t have missed Thursday night’s thrilling one-point victory.
1. Season opener
Last night’s face-off marked the commencement of the 2023-24 NBA season for your Milwaukee Bucks. The electric atmosphere was just a mere precursor to the nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat action that will follow throughout the season as the Bucks look to remain one of the best teams in the league.
2. Damian Lillard’s debut
The blockbuster trade bringing Damian Lillard to Milwaukee is under the microscope this season as he stepped on the court with the Bucks for the first time Thursday night. Game one was just a glimpse into how Lillard, one of the league’s best scorers, will integrate with his new team this year – and last night he certainly delivered. Dame Time finished with a game high 39 points, giving Bucks fans a lot to be excited about.
3. Giannis and Lillard’s synergy
The dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo has everyone talking. On paper, the two are a lethal combo, but Bucks fans certainly couldn’t wait to see how the pair would complement each other in reality. Thursday was a sneak peek into how these two could potentially dominate the league this season, making it a must-watch for basketball enthusiasts.
4. James Harden’s uncertainty
The mystery surrounding James Harden’s position with the 76ers added a layer of drama to the night. With reports that Harden was denied entry onto the 76ers team plane by team security to join the Sixers on their road trip, Harden was nowhere to be seen at Fiserv Forum on Thursday night. The peculiar nature of his absence was certainly a major talking point surrounding the opening matchup.
5. Joel Embiid’s burden
With or without Harden, all eyes (when not on Dame and Giannis) were on the reigning league MVP, Joel Embiid. The Philly big man had a modest 24 points on the game.
6. Tyrese Maxey’s moment
The stage was set for Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey to prove his mettle amidst Harden’s absence. Without Harden in the lineup, last night was a moment for Maxey to showcase his reliability as a cornerstone of the 76ers. Maxey answered the call and shined in the moment, leading the Sixers with 31 points and eight assists.
7. Home court advantage
With home court advantage at the Fiserv Forum, the Bucks had an added edge for their opening game. The roaring support from local fans catalyzed a triumphant start to the season for Milwaukee, playing a role in the Bucks especially narrow victory.
8. Giannis’ new contract
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s recent contract extension is a testament to Giannis and the Bucks’ long-term vision. Last night’s game was the first glimpse into how this slam dunk of an investment translates onto the court and the kind of domination fans can expect from the Greek Freak this season. Giannis struggled at moments last night but still managed to put up 23 points and 13 rebounds.
9. MarJon Beauchamp’s sophomore year
The anticipation surrounding MarJon Beauchamp’s performance this upcoming season is high. Tonight's game offered an early preview of what Beauchamp brings to the table and how he integrates with the Bucks’ lineup this season and in the long term. While the fan favorite played limited minutes on Thursday and had just four points, they came at crucial moments that kept the crowd energized.
10. A post-Jrue Holiday era
With NBA champion Jrue Holiday no longer part of the Bucks, the dynamics of the team have shifted. It’s intriguing to see how the Bucks adapt to this change and who steps up to fill the defensive voids left by Holiday, one of the league’s best defenders and perhaps one of the most underrated (outside of Milwaukee) players in the league. Milwaukee certainly won’t want to give up 117 on a nightly basis, but a win is a win.