Looking at the box score, this would seem to be a tale of two halves--The Bucks +9 in the first, the Sixers +19 in the second. In reality it was not too disimilar from the Bucks loss earlier this season in Philly--almost three full quarters of good basketball punctuated by an inability to finish the third that carried over into another fourth quarter malaise. Credit the Sixers though, they turned the screws defensively in the final 15 minutes, pressuring the ball more and putting the clamps on the Bucks' ball movement while running more themselves.
As has been customary when they play well, the Bucks started off moving the ball well, chalking up 15 of their 21 assists in the first half. Ramon Sessions was again the best Buck on the floor (18/10/5), pushing the ball for early offense--but the key was Philly's sloppiness. They turned it over eight times in the opening quarter and 13 times in the first half, making the Bucks' job of pushing the tempo and getting easy buckets that much easier.
The Sixers began to get their act together in the third, and unable to force turnovers or rebound, the Bucks began to lose ground. An 11-2 run at the end of the third quarter turned a 76-69 lead into an 80-78 deficit. Leading the charge were Lou Williams (21 points) and Marreese Speights (14/6), both providing huge sparks off the bench.
In the fourth the Bucks couldn't recapture their early game energy, with Williams and Speights stepping up while Andre Miller (18 points, 11 assists, eight turnovers) quit coughing the ball up long enough to finally do some consistent damage. He had eight while Speights and Williams both had six. Luke Ridnour looked especially overwhelmed, having trouble staying in front of Williams as the Sixers in general just started taking it to the Bucks.
- Ramon Sessions. He was five boards short of his second straight triple-double, but he was the driving force behind the Bucks' strong first half and totaled 18 points on 12 shots, 10 assists, five boards, four steals, and three turnovers. Things came tougher in the second half, but he more than held his own against a pretty savvy vet in Miller.
Luc Mbah a Moute. First off, let's state the obvious: Sessons was head and shoulders above his teammates tonight. But Mbah a Moute seemed to be doing more good things than his modest line suggests--defending, getting to loose balls, and generally seeming to put himself in the right position.
- Malik Allen. Maybe Allen was excited about being back in Philly just a couple days before his alma mater Villanova, but he actually looked pretty solid (eight pts, four boards in 17 minutes) filling in for Francisco Elson (hip flexor). Foul trouble then knocked him out of the final 15 minutes--coinciding with Philly's turning the tables on the Bucks. Allen's range helped spread the floor, opening up lanes for Sessions and Ridnour. Plus/minus should always come with a disclaimer, but Allen's +14 is a testament to not being a part of the Bucks' late collapse.
15. The Bucks had 15 dimes in the first half, an indicator of an effective offense that shot 53% from the field. They couldn't keep it up though, as they talled just six assists, 10 turnovers, and 35% shooting in the second half.
+16. The Sixers dominated the boards, 44-28, including a 13-7 edge on the offensive glass.
- +17. The Bucks lead the league in fouls and racked up another 31 tonight, good for a 43-26 edge in free throw attempts. Considering the teams each made 35 field goals and the Bucks had just one more triple, Philly's foul line edge made the difference when you add things up.
Three Two Good
- Sessions. In his last six games, Sessions is averaging 15.7 ppg, 8.8 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.0 spg, and 2.2 to. While Villanueva's numbers have cratered over the past month, at least one of the Bucks' restricted free agents is finishing strong.
Draft watching. The Bucks are now 11th in the lottery standings, percentage points ahead of New Jersey in the real standings and 1.5 games ahead of New Jersey. The more important question--will the Bucks even be able to keep their lottery pick? OK, so I'm using "good" very loosely here.
- Locked up. Even with both of their point guards playing much of the fourth, the Bucks couldn't create offense. Just two assists in the final quarter against five turnovers and 35% shooting. With the Sixers taking better care of the ball and crashing the offensive glass for their own misses, the Bucks were starved for transition opportunities and couldn't get it done in halfcourt.
- Quiet Charlie. Villanueva had a promising start to the game with 11 points in the first half (4/6 fg), though the Sixers also showed their low opinion of him defensively by going after him immediately with the unstoppable Reggie Evans (13/7 in 25 min). Then in the second half...nothing. Evans muscled him for a three point play to started the third and another foul shortly thereafter earned him a spot on the bench. He ended up taking just three shots in the second half--all missed.
- Rookie Review. While Speights was again proving his worth with big plays down the stretch, Joe Alexander's streak of solid performances came to a halt. Alexander played 11 minutes but was fortunate to see even that much time with just two misses, a turnover, and a steal in 11 minutes.