Joel Embiid Downplayed A Potential Rivalry With Giannis Antetokounmpo

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On Thursday night, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers squared off in what hopes to be a playoff preview between two of the East’s top contenders. With their 128-122 win, the Bucks managed to sew up the No. 1 seed in the East and the best record in the league overall, which will ensure them home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo was his usual dominant self, as he put up 45 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in the win, which included a more than respectable 3-for-7 from downtown, showing a glimpse of his improved range as the postseason approaches.

He and the Bucks were able to withstand a monstrous effort from Joel Embiid, who had 34 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, three blocks and a pair of steals. After the game, Embiid was asked whether we might be witnessing a budding rivalry between the two in the same vein as his ones with Russell Westbrook and Andre Drummon, but the normally outspoken Sixers center seemed content to downplay things in the wake of the loss.

“I mean, the real definition of rivalry is you kind of have to play the same position,” Embiid said. “I don’t guard Westbrook, so I don’t really care about it. Of course, I do guard Giannis. He’s a hell of a player. Every time you go against him is a challenge. He’s really good. He doesn’t talk back or whatever. Rivalry is more about … you see a lot of trash talk.”

Typically, Embiid isn’t so reserved about who he beefs with or over what, but perhaps sensing his and the Sixers’ current place in the East’s pecking order — i.e. in a tier below Milwaukee — he doesn’t feel the need to add anything extra to a matchup that should have plenty of fireworks should they meet in the playoffs this spring.