Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel (above) combined for 38 points and 18 rebounds, which caught coach Brett Brown’s attention: “I look at the energy that Nerlens had. He was a monster. Those two coexist just fine.”

By Annie Ross

If you’re a Sixers fan jonesin’ for any good news in this young NBA season, let alone a win, last night’s 91-87 loss at Milwaukee might provide what you are looking for.

In what was their strongest showing yet this young season, the Sixers (0-4) battled the Bucks (2-3) down to the wire before losing thanks to Milwaukee’s decisive 9-2 run over the final 2:29 of the fourth quarter to clinch their second straight victory.

Jahlil Okafor tied a game-high by scoring in 21 points, marking the third time in four games that the rookie center had at least 20 points.

Nerlens Noel, who had 17 points and a game-best 12 rebounds, registered his second double-double of the season.

T.J. McConnell gave the Sixers a spark for the second game in a row, this time doing so in a starting capacity. He racked up seven points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists.

Khris Middleton, who had 21 points for Milwaukee, made several key plays in the closing stages of the game. He set-up Greg Monroe (18 pts, 8 reb) for a dunk that gave the Bucks the lead for good with 89 seconds to go. Less than a minute later, Middleton buried a triple that would put the game out of reach. Jabari Parker – who had been sidelined since last December with a left knee ACL tear – managed just two points in his first appearance of the year.

Two key sequences involving the Sixers’ starting big men stood out. Three minutes into the game, with Milwaukee in the halfcourt, Nerlens Noel pried away a steal at the free throw line. The loose ball found Jahlil Okafor, who went end to end to drop in a running lay-up.

Another highlight came late in the fourth quarter, and showcased Noel. With the Sixers down three points, he scored six points over the course of an 8-2 spurt that gave the Sixers an 85-82 advantage with 2:29 remaining in regulation. All three buckets came via hard moves to the rim.

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