Yes, this is about as big as the final game prior to the All Star break can get for a team who has clearly played over its head through the first 50 games of the season (and playing over its head led to a 22-28 record). Beat Milwaukee, in Milwaukee tonight and the Sixers will go into the break only two games out of the playoffs. Lose, and the deficit grows to four games.
Considering how they played against the Clippers on Monday night, it's hard to imagine it will matter in the end, but the Sixers also kind of need this game because they're down 0-2 in the season series vs. Milwaukee. If they win tonight and then beat MIL in Philly on March 27th, they can nullify the first tiebreaker for the playoffs. If they lose either, they lose the tiebreaker and they have to finish a game ahead of Milwaukee to sneak in.
The stench of that Clippers game hasn't fully left my system yet, and it's really hard to overlook giving up 215 points to the Bucks in the two previous losses, but Milwaukee is playing some awfully bad basketball right now. You can make whatever excuses you want, but the Bucks have lost two games in a row at home to teams with a combined 7-39 record on the road coming into the games. Washington blew their doors off on Monday.
If they're going to win this game, Jrue needs to completely turn around his recent trend of taking a bunch of shots, not making many of them, and never getting to the line. Since exploding for a career-high 35 points against the Knicks, Jrue has shot 55/132 from the floor (41.7%), 4/15 from three (26.7%) and only gotten to the line 11 times. In fact, in the 7 games, he hasn't gone to the line a single time in three of the games and he's only taken two freebies in three others. His true shooting % over that stretch has been .446 and his season number has dropped from .527 to .514. The former number is pretty much average for the position, and a really decent level of efficiency considering what he's asked to do. The latter is approaching inefficient gunner status. If the Sixers are going to have any chance tonight, Jrue needs to win his matchup with Brandon Jennings.
It probably wouldn't hurt if Evan Turner could somehow muster enough sack to at least impersonate a legitimate NBA player, but that might be asking too much when he has a kick ass Bahamas vacation looming. I think it would probably be a prudent move for Turner to invest in a timeshare in the Bahamas. Just go ahead and book that condo for All Star weekend every year. He's always going to have that time off work.
Filed under "ideas I'm ashamed to say excite me, which only shows how low I've sunk," the Sixers are apparently interested in signing Lou Amundson. Yes, I'm all for it. Amundson's two marketable qualities are that he hustles and he gives a crap, two things usually in short supply among the Sixers bigs.
If I was Doug Collins, I'm pretty sure I'd start Dorell Wright at the four tonight. You can't play Lavoy and Spence up front when the other team has a stretch four. Neither of those guys will check Ilyasova out to the three-point line, and he's hitting at a 43.5% clip this season after an extremely slow start. Of course, if you start Wright, then you have to worry about the defensive glass, but I'd make due on the glass rather than seeing wide open looks from deep.
Since Thad's injury, the Sixers have gotten humiliated by two good teams and cruised by a pathetic squad. Tonight, we'll get a chance to see if they can at least compete against a middle-dweller. That, and we'll also get to see if Jrue's already in Houston and the rest of them are already looking forward to their vacations.
The tip is at 8pm. I should be home in time for the game thread. Join me if you're optimistic even if you have no right to be (or you just don't want to miss the final game before the break).