76ers/Bucks: Spoiler season begins against Philly

2009/2010 NBA Season

Phi2_medium

vs.
Mil_2_medium
40-36 (15-24 road) 30-45 (19-19 home)
April 2, 2011
Bradley Center
7:30 PM
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FS Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Jrue Holiday PG Brandon Jennings
Jodie Meeks SG John Salmons
Andre Iguodala SF Carlos Delfino
Elton Brand PF Luc Mbah a Moute
Spencer Hawes C Andrew Bogut

(15th) 107.2 - OFFENSE -  101.6 (30th)
(8th) 104.9 - DEFENSE - 102.8 (4th)
(15th) 91.9  - PACE -  89.7 (24th)
Linkage:

Liberty Ballers / Sixers 4 Guidos / Philly.com / Philadunkia

Twenty four hours after seeing their playoff hopes grind to a halt in Indiana, the Bucks return home to host the playoff-bound Sixers at the Bradley Center.

Next steps. What to watch for over the final seven games? Given the half-hearted nature of the Bucks playoff drive, I'd say most of the same things we've been focusing on for the past couple months: signs of progression from Brandon Jennings, continued signs of the old Andrew Bogut, and some sense of how all the other pieces can (or can't) be shaped into a cohesive supporting cast. Speaking of which, Jennings made no effort to hide his frustrations about the latter following the Pacers game: 

"It's a real disappointing season. Some guys have the mind-set of winning on the team and some guys just don't. It's been that way all year. We wanted to come in this year and build on what we did (a playoff berth last season), and we didn't.

"We traded a lot of pieces I feel like we should have kept. But that's part of the business, and you've just got to roll with it."

The only players traded since the Bucks' 46-win season were end-of-the-benchers Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell, so I'm guessing Jennings isn't talking about the pieces "traded" so much as let go--namely veterans Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas, and Jerry Stackhouse. No question the Bucks have missed Ridour and KT, but I still question whether the departure of those three could by themselves result in 12-15 fewer wins. 

For his part, Jennings has at least begun to show some degree of improvement over the past month, and he enters tonight's game averaging 24.0 ppg over his last five games. Much of that success has been driven by his success getting into the paint, where he's finished a superb 20/31 shots over that span.

Minutes for Maggette. The Bucks' big summer acquisition had played just two minutes in the prior seven games before coming off the bench in the second half to score 13 points on six shots in Indiana, reiterating the silliness of Skiles' refusal to use him over the past month or so. Say what you will about Maggette's flawed game, but don't tell me there's no room for him in the rotation of a 30-45 team which can't score points.

Straight shooter. Bogut averaged a solid 14.8 ppg and 10.2 rpg in March, but just as importatly he did it with newfound efficiency, hitting 56% of his attempts from the field while also stroking 15 of 24 free throws. His true shooting percentage is still an ugly 49.9% for the season, but at least it's been heading in the right direction. 

Holiday season. Jrue Holiday doesn't come with the hype Jennings brings, but he brings a quieter productivity that Jennings could learn a thing or two from. Holiday doesn't score at the same rate as Jennings, but he's more efficient (53% vs. 49% TS) and proven himself to be a better, more consistent playmaker as well (6.3 vs. 4.9 apg). 

Philly bench. Thad Young has scored 22, 22, and 21 points off the bench over the past three games, the first time a Sixer has cracked 20+ off the bench in three straight since Don MacLean in 96/97. Though a starter for much of the past two seasons, Young has come off the bench in all but one game this year and upped his productivity (19.5 pts/40, 57% true shooting) while playing fewer minutes (26 mpg vs. 34.4 and 32.0).

In spite of those impressive numbers, Young isn't the Sixers' leading bench scorer--that honor goes to Buck killer Lou Williams (13.8 ppg, career-high 19.12 PER, 20.0 ppg against this Bucks this year). Williams has made 11/19 shots over the past two games after going 3/23 in the previous two. Interestingly, Philly's top three scorers and top two players in PER terms come off the bench.

Breaking point. The Sixers' athleticism has often been the source of problems for the Bucks in recent years, and no stat reflects that more than the respective teams' fast break numbers. While Philly ranks third in the league at 17.7 pts/game in transition, the Bucks still rank last in the league at just 9.9 pts/game.

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