By Tommy Matthews

Joel Embiid’s 42 points, 14 rebounds and five assists led the visiting Sixers past the Bucks 123-120 in Philly’s last game before the All-Star break.

“The one thing the later All-Star break does, when you come out, it’s a sprint,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s no longer the midway point, where you can ease back from the break. It’s a full sprint when you come back.”

Embiid put the 76ers ahead for good at 117-116 with a 10-footer with 2:32 left. The victory helped the 76ers enter the All-Star break with momentum two nights after an embarrassing 135-87 home loss to Boston.

“It was all about the start,” Embiid said. “From the start, everybody was aggressive.”

Tobias Harris, who scored 19 points, said the 76ers showed more focus as they responded to that lopsided defeat. He said it was evident as early as the pregame shootaround.

“That was a game that I’ll say we kind of needed just to push us back and understand we’ve got a lot of work to do, to focus,” Harris said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks.

Philly played without James Harden, who hasn’t made his 76ers debut since coming over in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets last week. The 10-time All-Star and 2018 MVP hasn’t played since Feb. 2 due to an injured left hamstring.

After trailing by 15 early in the third quarter, the Bucks clawed back and took their first lead since the second period on Jrue Holiday’s 3-pointer with 5:47 left. Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer extended the advantage to 116-112 with 3:56 remaining.

But the 76ers scored the next eight points to pull back ahead for good in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break. The Bucks missed six straight shots and committed turnovers on consecutive possessions during that stretch.

“We had a lot of open looks, good shots that did not fall, shots that we usually make down the stretch,” Antetokounmpo said.

Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton missed a 3-pointer with about nine seconds left.

The Bucks had one final chance after Philadelphia’s Furkan Korkmaz lost the ball out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left. After Embiid fouled Antetokounmpo to force one more inbounds pass with 1.1 seconds left, Middleton missed a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

“Very frustrating,” said Middleton, who scored 19 points but shot 2 of 12 from 3-point range. “That’s how these games go sometimes. You’ve just got to trust and keep shooting when I’m open, keep being aggressive.”

Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey scored 19 points, Georges Niang added 18 points and Korkmaz had 13.

Holiday scored 24 points for the Bucks, Jordan Nwora had 18 and Bobby Portis17.

The 76ers snapped a six-game skid in this series. That included a 118-109 decision at Philadelphia on Nov. 9. Embiid, Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe didn’t play for the 76ers in that Nov. 9 matchup due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

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