The wait is finally over.
Jabari Parker, who tore his left ACL last December during a game against Phoenix, made his long-awaited return Wednesday night as the Bucks knocked off the Philadelphia 76ers, 91-87, in Milwaukee. Though he only played 16 minutes and contributed just two points and four rebounds, his presence on the court should boost morale for the Bucks.
Khris Middleton was the leading scorer for the Bucks with 21points while Greg Monroe added 18 and Giannis Antetokounmpo chipped in with 17.
As for Philadelphia, Jahlil Okafor, who has averaged 20 points in his first three games, once again led the team in scoring with 21 points and six boards. Also, Nerlens Noel had 17 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes for his second double-double of the season.
Middleton, who has a penchant for hitting clutch shots late in the game, sealed the game with a dagger three with 48 seconds remaining, that made it 89-85 and hit two foul shots with 1.4 seconds left.
In the first quarter, Parker missed the opening shot for Milwaukee but nailed a 14-footer on the ensuing possession to get on the board. Philadelphia held a brief 10-4 lead, but the Bucks did a good job moving the ball around, getting good looks from the perimeter as Middleton hit a three to nab a 13-12 lead. Later, with the score tied 19-19, the Bucks went on a 10-2 run to close out the first, leading 29-21 as they shot 50 percent (11/22). Middleton had 10 points while Monroe was very active with nine points and several rebounds.
In the second period, Milwaukee played lackadaisical on defense, which allowed the 76ers to shoot their way back into the game on a 22-11 run to make it 43-42. At the same time, the Bucks also went cold from the court, going over four minutes from 6:35 to 2:34 without a field goal and hitting just eight out of 20 field goals the entire quarter.
With a 47-45 halftime lead, Milwaukee outshot the 76ers, 45 to 38 percent and 50 to 22.2 percent from three-point range, but Philly led fast break points, 11-5, and points in the paint, 26-20.
In the third, the game remained close as the scrappy 76ers used their length and athleticism to bother the Bucks and it worked as Milwaukee hit just three of its first 13 shots and Philadelphia led, 63-56. In fact, after shooting 11 for 22 in first quarter, the Bucks were just 11 of 34 for 32 percent with 3:30 remaining. Yet, just when it seemed Philadelphia seized momentum, Greivis Vasquez scored four straight and Chris Copeland five points on a 9-0 run and the Bucks led, 68-67.
Finally, in the fourth, Vazquez hit a three and then made a fancy dish to Antetokounmpo to go up 73-67, but Philly kept fighting and briefly took a 76-75 lead before Copeland hit a three for the Bucks. Milwaukee nursed an 80-77 lead, but Philly was getting great penetration all night, creating easy baskets down low for Noel as they went up 85-82 with 2:29. Fortunately, Monroe hit two quick shots in a row and then Middleton nailed the three with 48 seconds to go up.
With the victory, the Bucks have now won seven consecutive meetings against the 76ers and will look to continue their winning ways this Friday in New York against the Knicks. Tip-off for that game will be 7:30 EST.
In addition to Parker, reserve guard Tyler Ennis made his season debut after missing the first several games with a shoulder injury.
Also, Michael Carter-Williams missed the game against his former team with a sore left ankle as did John Henson and O.J. Mayo.