The Boston Celtics have been showing little interest in the seventh seed these days (5 losses in a row before a last-second win tonight), while the Sixers have shown little interest in the eighth seed all season. Unfortunately the Bucks seem to be showing a disregard for both these days, with their 100-92 loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday night the latest example of the Bucks allowing late-game ineptness to turn a moderately encouraging victory into another head-shaking defeat.
This time around: Dorell Wright's eight points keyed a 22-4 fourth quarter surge for Doug Collins' beleaguered Sixers, turning an 83-76 Milwaukee lead with eleven minutes remaining into a 98-87 Philly lead that would prove too much for a Milwaukee club that once again looked rather clueless down the stretch. While Monta Ellis was the runaway star for the Bucks (28 pts, 12/21 fg, 7 ast, 4 to), Philadelphia's balanced attack featured six players scoring between 13 and 18 points, including 15 points and 18 boards from Philly fan (un)favorite Spencer Hawes.
The two teams alternated spells of dominance throughout the game, which makes sense given both clubs are more inconsistent than they are fundamentally untalented. Thad Young (causing Ersan Ilyasova problems) and (gulp) Damien Wilkins tormented the Bucks at various points throughout the first half, as Milwaukee came out flat and defenseless en route to a 27-20 deficit after one period that swelled to a 45-27 Sixer lead midway through the second. But this is the NBA, and these are the Sixers, and these are also the Bucks, so Milwaukee immediately launched into a 17-2 run fueled by threes from Ilyasova, Mike Dunleavy and (returning from injury) Luc Mbah a Moute.
Things then got, ahem, interesting early in the third when an ineffective Jennings (0/3 fg, 0 pts) was yanked after two quick fouls defending Jrue Holiday--and glued to the pine for the remainder of the game. Not surprisingly he looked rather displeased with the entire situation, which only makes sense for a guy who has now missed 28 of his last 33 field goal attempts. Not that J.J. Redick did much better; the Bucks' "win now" acquisition hit just 2/12 shots and scored eight points as Milwaukee fell to just 8-9 since the deadline deal that shipped Tobias Harris to Orlando.
Even with Redick struggling from the field, Boylan's decision to bench his combustible point guard immediately began to pay dividends thanks to Ellis, who scored from distance, mid-range and multiple times at the rim during a 23-9 run that erased Philly's double-digit advantage and saw the Bucks lead 78-76 heading into the fourth quarter. Ellis also had the Bucks off on the right foot with five quick points to start the final period, but that 83-76 would prove the Bucks' high-water mark for the game. Milwaukee committed six turnovers in the decisive period (a number of them of the unforced variety) and missed 12 of their final 13 shots (many of them at the rim) as they once again floundered down the stretch.
The loss draws Philly to within 6.5 games of the Bucks for the final spot in the East, though with just 12 games remaining you'd expect that even the Bucks would have a hard time squandering their comfortable lead. Still, the Bucks' upcoming homestand features a pair of rather loseable games (Lakers tomorow and Thunder on Saturday) that could send Milwaukee tailspinning even further.