Watching this team can be maddening, at times. Over the past two games, they've played basically 48 minutes of quality, hard-nosed defensive basketball (entire second half + overtime against Toronto, entire second half minus a five-minute stretch vs. San Antonio). Against the bad team, one half was enough. Against the good team, it wasn't. Against Milwaukee tonight, they aren't going to have the legs to make a big comeback.
Let's start with last night's game. The most important thing to keep in mind is that folding late in games isn't a pattern for this particular team. I know we've all been through it way too many times in the past, we feel like a beaten dog, but it hasn't happened at all this year, and it didn't happen in the playoffs last year. It's bound to happen, especially against a really good team. That doesn't make it any easier to stomach, but let's wait for it to happen a couple more times before we get really worried.
That being said, man, what an ugly finish. With 5:40 left, the Sixers took an 82-75 lead. Here's what happened on the next 10 possessions:
- Thad misses from 6 feet
- Ivey misses a three pointer
- Nick Young turns the ball over
- Jrue turns the ball over
- Jrue misses from 2 feet
- Jrue misses from 3 feet, ball out of bounds off SAS, Ivey turns the ball over on the inbound play. (This led to a breakaway dunk for Kawi Leonard, pulling the Spurs to within 3 points)
- Turner misses from 14 feet. (Turner then completely loses Leonard for a corner three, which ties the game)
- Thad misses from 9 feet
- *Jrue hits one free throw, off-the-ball foul* Turner misses a three-pointer
- Jrue turns the ball over
Even after the dust had settled from that steaming pile of pathetic, the Sixers were still within one possession at 83-86 with 43.9 seconds remaining. Tony Parker missed a three, but the Sixers couldn't grab the board. Splitter grabbed it, the Spurs eventually hit a couple freebies and that was basically the game. One point in ten possessions. The key plays, for me, were the two that led to the game being tied. The Ivey turn which led to the breakaway dunk, and then the defensive brain fart that gave Leonard the three to tie it. The turnovers were terrible, obviously, but you can probably take solace in the fact that they were at least taking decent shots, everything was either in the lane or a good look at a three. Nothing dropped, though.
For tonight, when defending the Bucks, they do a lot of the work for you. Their starting lineup consists of a non-factor in Mbah a Moute, a guy who rarely touches the ball in Larry Sanders and a guy just eating up possessions with terrible efficiency in Monta Ellis. Basically, just stay out of their way and let them do their thing. Don't let Sanders play a bigger role than he's used to (15% usage rate). Let Monta jack up long twos as much as he wants, and don't let Mbah a Moute clean up any easy points on putbacks. The problem areas are Brandon Jennings (he always seems to have good games against the Sixers, Jrue needs to end that streak tonight) and the resurgent Ilyasova. Dunleavy is their only legit threat off the bench, though other guys are more than capable of having a good game, it's just not expected. Keep an eye on Beno Udrih, he blows at pretty much everything except long twos, and the Sixers always give him as many open long twos as he wants to hit.
Big minutes for Jrue, Thad and Turner last night. Expect Collins to look for opportunities to sneak them some extra rest early in the game. Hopefully, they won't have their backs against the wall immediately, again.
The tip is at 8pm on NBATV. This is your game thread. I believe I'll be home in time to join you, as long as the train is running on time. Join me if you know you shouldn't feel good about the second night of a back-to-back, but you just can't help yourself.