If the big question was who would step up in Thad Young's absence, the simple answer was just about everyone. In particular, Lou Williams and Donyell Marshall who led a fierce second-half comeback against the weary Bucks en route to a 105-95 win.
I don't want to downplay the contributions the other guys made. Evans was a scoring force early on. Ivey had a huge stretch in the second half that you really won't see in the box score. Speights looked like a stud in his 27 minutes of work. Iguodala went to the line 14 times and Miller rebounded from a miserable first half to score 18 and dish out 11 assists (just ignore the 8 turnovers). Everyone (outside of Willie) did his part tonight, but Lou and Donyell outshined everyone else.
Sometimes plus/minus can be a misleading stat. This is not one of those cases. Donyell Marshall played 16 minutes tonight, he was only 1/4 from the floor for 3 points, but his impact on this game was worth every bit of the 22-point advantage the Sixers enjoyed while he was out there. He grabbed 7 defensive boards, blocked a shot, handed out two assists, and blocked a key shot that sprung the fast break. Marshall came in at the end of the first half, when the offense was sputtering, and the team put 11 points on the board in under 3 minutes. When he came into the game at the end of the third, the Sixers were trailing 67-74. From that point on, they outscored Milwaukee 38-23. The team scored 49 points in his 16 minutes of play. That's production.
Was tonight the return of Good Lou? At the game the other night, Mike and I were sharing our disgust over Lou's flip attitude about his horrible shooting in a pregame interview. His comments after the game tonight seemed to be more grounded in reality when he said he'd been playing bad recently. His play on the court tonight, however, was anything but bad. 7/10 from the floor, 6/8 from the line, 21 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover in 31 minutes of action.
I think Coach DiLeo deserves a pat on the back after this game. He went with the hot hand, and he got the cold guys out of there quickly. When Sammy picked up his second foul in the first quarter, he didn't let him rot on the bench for the rest of the half, he got him back in there in the second quarter. He also realized that although Reggie was more productive than usual, he had no place on the floor during crunch time. I thought he handled the rotations pretty well throughout.
Sammy, to his credit, made the most out of his 19 minutes of work, grabbing 10 boards (8 defensive). He helped lead the way to a huge rebounding edge for the Sixers, and honestly, domination of the defensive glass, which isn't something we've seen very often from this team.
This was a big win. It was an important win. But let's not get carried away. The Bucks are not a good team, and they clearly cashed this game in with about 5 minutes to go in the fourth. They were coming off a tough loss to the Lakers Wednesday night, and they ran out of gas. The Sixers did a good job of forcing the issue, and taking the ball to the rim, but this game is probably a loss if they're playing a good team. Take the win, take the late run as a positive sign, but realize you're going to have to work harder on Saturday against the Pistons.
Player of The Game: Lou
Team Record: 39-35
Up Next: Detroit, 3pm Saturday on ESPN
Chicken/Egg Question: Were the Sixers better on the defensive boards because they didn't use an under-sized lineup? Or did the Sixers' "big" lineups have an advantage simply because the Bucks use their own under-sized lineup, with an under-motivated Charlie V. at power forward?
Extra Credit Question: How many games do the Sixers lose if Donyell doesn't play down the stretch this season? Maybe 4 or 5? He's only played more than 10 minutes in 6 games this season. I'd say that's a pretty high percentage.