Believe it or not, the last time the Sixers faced the Bucks this season was salvageable. If everything had gone according to (heavily-modified) plan, they would've won that game, gone into the All Star break two games behind the #8 seed and come out with Bynum added to their lineup for a run to the playoffs. Things did not work out as planned.
In the intervening six weeks, the Sixers learned Bynum would be lost for the season, completed a breathtaking trade for Charles Jenkins, dropped 14 of 19 games, fell out of the playoff race and off the face of the Earth. The Bucks made a move to improve (acquiring JJ Redick) and continued their relentless assault on mediocrity (8 wins, 10 losses since the 2/13 meeting). The opportunity was there, first it was lost on the floor, then it was erased from memory by a pair of arthroscopic knee surgeries and a grinding road losing streak.
Tonight, the Sixers will return home from a tough road trip to face a rested Bucks team fresh off three straight losses to playoff squads. Whatever was ailing the Sixers - be it fatigue, disinterest or disgust - I expect a better showing on the home floor tonight. They've only got four home games left, you'd have to assume the flight home from Utah ranged from awkward to unpleasant and they all got to sleep in their own beds last night. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed with this team, but I think fewer potential excuses are in place. We should see fresh legs, at a minimum, tonight.
There are several interesting decisions/matchups heading into the game. I assume Evan Turner will be matched up with Marquis Daniels, the easiest perimeter mark the Bucks have, which puts Wilkins at a huge quickness disadvantage on Monta. Since the trade, Redick is only playing about 28 minutes/game while Monta Ellis averages better than 40. That may seem curious, but Monta has also been on fire since his starting job was challenged. He's scoring 23.1/game on 48% from the floor and 39.4% from three (on 4.1 3PA/g). Brandon Jennings has slid nicely into the "gunner who can't shoot" role for the Bucks over the same stretch, hitting at 37% from the floor. Over his past two games, Jennings has scorched the nets to the tune of 5/30 for 16 points, including an impressive 1/12 from three. Should be an interesting game if Jrue (2/8 for 7 points @ UTA) and Jennings continue their impressive shooting droughts.
The matchup I'm interested in is Ilyasova vs. Thad. After a slow start, Ilyasova is making his contract look like a bargain (even more so when you consider he's making the same as Nick Young + Kwame Brown). Thad will be tested out to the three-point line on the defensive end. On offense, Thad has a quickness and strength advantage. He needs a big double-double tonight. Spencer's newfound guile on the inside will be tested vs. the shotblocking Larry Sanders.
Two decent defenses dragging around bad O's enter, only one can emerge. Exciting stuff!
The tip is at 7. Use this as your game thread. I'll be watching on DVR.