A week ago the Bucks had hoped tonight's matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers would be a last-gasp opportunity to sneak into the playoffs. Instead, the Sixers' wins over the Pacers and Nets have made the Bucks' last two wins and indeed the outcome of tonight's game academic, and as a result it appears both teams will be resting key starters.
Update: Ersan Ilyasova is out tonight and Drew Gooden is not expected to play. Jon Leuer and Ekpe Udoh started in their place.
How deep, Sixers? Andre Iguodala (leg?), Elton Brand (too old?) and Lou Williams (general indifference) aren't even with the team, meaning Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks will likely both start and see extended minutes. It also means Iggy, Brand and Sweet Lou will be missing out on a lovely couple day excursion to Milwaukee. Your loss, guys. The JS has Lavoy Allen penciled in for Brand at the starting PF spot, though our bud Mike Levin at Liberty Ballers wouldn't mind seeing Thad Young get the nod either.
Grass is greener. The best part about being a fan of the Bucks and Sixers: no one's happy. Many Sixer fans have been, ahem, skeptical of the value of another short playoff stint, going so far as to encroach on our Bucks blogging turf over the past couple weeks. Meanwhile, many of us Bucks fans were almost resigned to rooting for an abortive playoff appearance because...well, I guess we just wanted to win at something, especially given the team's clear intent not to join the tank brigade. The joys of middle-of-the-pack NBA basketball, eh?
Ersanity. Via Bucks.com: Ersan Ilyasova is the first player since Arvydas Sabonis in 1996 to average at least 12 points and 8 rebounds per game in under 28 minutes per contest.
Youngsters? Charles Gardner writes that Monta Ellis (hand) could join Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) and Carlos Delfino (groin) in street clothes tonight, which would likely mean Shaun Livingston and Tobias Harris sliding into the starting swing spots. Of course we'd love to see guys like Harris, Jon Leuer, Larry Sanders (returning from suspension) and Ekpe Udoh get extended time in the season's final two games, but you can bet that if nothing else Skiles would love to get back to .500 just for the symbolic value of avoiding another losing season--something the Bucks have managed just once in the last eight seasons. Unfortunately, there's nothing else to be gained from going all out in the season's final two games; if anything winning the season's final two games could cost the Bucks in the lottery standings.
At 33-32, Houston and Phoenix are both two games ahead of the Bucks in the win column but have similarly little incentive to go all out in their final games. Houston is hosting the similarly disinterested (and overall worse) Hornets in their final game (good!), but the Suns unfortunately get the Spurs, who have already clinched the top spot in the West but are tied with the Bulls for the NBA's top mark overall. In other words, let's hope the Spurs opt to rest their stars tonight.
If the Bucks do match either or both of the Rockets and Suns in the final standings, their total lottery chances would be averaged and a coin flip would be used to determine any tie-breakers. The 12th, 13th and 14th seeded teams have virtually no chance of seeing their name pop up for one of the top three picks (of the 1000 total combos in the lottery, they have just 7, 6 and 5), but the tiebreakers are critical because they determine where each team picks if they don't get one of the top three picks. Read: barring a miracle, the Bucks could end up picking anywhere between 12th and 14th. Contain your enthusiasm.