On the 76ers:
The Bucks have a chance to win a third game in a row overall or lose a third game in a row to Philadelphia. The Sixers are coming off a win over Boston last night and have won 16 of their last 23 overall. After starting the season 3-13, they are looking more like last year's Bucks, playing surprisingly tough defense and peaking as spring arrives.
Happy Holiday. 6'4" 20 year-old point guard Jrue Holiday is among the league-leaders with 1.6 steals per game, but he is also showing off offensively of late, coming off a month in February during which he shot 49/41/91 from the field, threes, and free throw line. For the season, he is 44/35/79, compared to 39/33/78 for Brandon Jennings.
Both Holiday (34.6 %) and Jennings (23.3 %) have struggled shooting in their first two head-to-head matchups this season. Jennings was taken 10th overall while Holiday was picked 17th overall in the 2009 draft.
Question of the night: Which point guard would you rather have: Jennings or Holiday?
A/TO. Philadelphia ranks third in the NBA with a 1.69 assist-to-turnover rate. The Bucks are all the way down to 26th after finishing a stellar ninth overall last season. This major dropoff is one of many reasons for the offense's decline. Interestingly, the point guards are not the problem in this regard. Brandon Jennings (from 2.4 to 2.1) is similar to last year in this regard, Keyon Dooling (3.1 -- same Luke Ridnour last season) is in the top ten in the NBA, and Earl Boykins (2.5) has taken care of the ball as well.
The problem is that the team has assembled a sizable group of players who have more turnovers than assists: Ersan Ilyasova (0.9), Jon Brockman (0.8), Luc Mbah a Moute (0.7), Corey Maggette (0.6), Drew Gooden (0.6), and Larry Sanders (0.4).
Milwaukee's number. Philadelphia has already beaten the Milwaukee twice this season, first crushing the Bucks in Philadelphia, 90-79 in November, and then winning by a point, 95-94, in January. The Sixers have matched up well with the Bucks recently -- even last year's dream season started with a bad loss at Wells Fargo Center, and the team's split their four games.
Fast phillies. The Bucks took full advantage of some slow-motion transition defense by the Cavaliers on Wednesday to score 14 fastbreak points in the second quarter -- eclipsing their 10.3 fastbreak points per entire game, which ranks 29th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Sixers rank third overall averaging 17.8 fastbreak points per game. Milwaukee is currently sixth best overall allowing 12.4 fastbreak points per game to opponents, but Coach Skiles spoke affectionately and worryingly about Philly's athleticism after the win against the Cavalaiers:
Philly has given us tons of problems with their speed and athleticism. We were watching some of the Oklahoma City/Philly game before we went out, and a lot of athleticism in the game, a lot of speed. We've got to be ready for that... It's another game we've got to get.
CD-Aren't? Even Chris Douglas-Roberts got into the fun against Cleveland, scoring 13 points (along with 3 assists) and racking up a +17 differential in 24 minutes -- roughly the same number of minutes he played in the previous month combined. Though that made four straight games in which Douglas-Roberts played, it was particularly significant because Skiles turned to him early in the game, and he actually played more than anyone off the bench (including game hero Boykins) as well as more than a couple starters. Whether this signaled a return to the rotation for CD-R, however, is not so certain. Coach Skiles, after the Cavaliers game:
He did a nice job. We want to feel really good about the win, and feel good about the way we moved the ball and played offensively. But you also have to be careful about judging individual guys after a 20-point game, you know.
Deep Sixers. Philadelphia's bench brings quantity over quality. Doug Collins only brought four players off the bench in their win over the Celtics last night, but Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Marreesse Speights, and Evan Turner comprise an eclectic and effervescent quartet. And as Jeremy Schmidt noted, Philadelphia's bench scored 47 and 44 points respectively in their first two wins against Milwaukee this season. Williams hit a late three to push Philly to a late win in January, he's averaging 22.0 points in the first two matchups of the season, and always seems to cause problems in the clutch for Milwaukee.
Playins. Indiana lost again last night -- the loss to Toronto makes it six straight. Charlotte actually beat Portland, halting seven-game slide of their own. As such, the Bucks trail both teams by a single game for the final playoff spot. The Sixers are comfortably in the seven spot, now just half a game behind the Knicks for the six seed.