Losing is becoming the norm for the Milwaukee Bucks (2-9) these days, but losing like this?
If you missed it--and most in Milwaukee did since it wasn't on television--this was blowing a 10-point lead in the final 2:10 of the fourth quarter amid a flurry of Sixer threes.
This was watching Spencer Hawes score nine of his 25 points (11/16 fg, 3/6 threes, 12 rebs, 6 to) in the final 81 seconds, the final three on an impossible turnaround from the left sideline with under two seconds remaining to force overtime.
This was watching Evan Turner (27 pts, 10/18 fg, 6 reb, 3 ast, 5 to) turn the tables on a dominating fourth quarter from Caron Butler (38 pts, 13/22 fg, 8 rebs, 3 ast) with eight of his 27 points in overtime.
Coming into the season this was supposed to be Philly's fate of course, but three weeks into the season Brett Brown's energetic young Sixers are now 6-8, which is somehow good enough for seventh in the East, while the Bucks' tenure as the East's worst team will continue for at least another 24 hours. But before you start salivating over the 2014 NBA draft, remember the flip side:
If the Bucks had won, they'd have been 0.5 games out of the 8th seed.— Steven von Horn (@StevevonHorn) November 23, 2013
The difference between this game and the Bucks' loss on Wednesday was that at least a couple Bucks actually played well this time around, though probably not the ones you were hoping for. Butler was aggressive early and grew in confidence as the game went on, scoring 17 in the first half to keep the Bucks within 55-53 at the half and then pouring in another 16 in the fourth. That included a pair of threes that seemed to be daggers: one that gave the Bucks their 10-point lead with two minutes remaining, the second restoring the Bucks' lead to four with eight seconds remaining. But a driving layup from Turner cut the lead to two and Luke Ridnour missed the first of two free throws to give Hawes his chance to tie the game.
Hawes' 11 points in the final two minutes of regulation earned him an improbable split decision in his matchup with Ersan Ilyasova, who up until that point had gotten the better of the bigger Hawes by running him around the perimeter for much of the night. Finding ample room both in pick-and-pop and coming off staggered screens, Ilyasova was 7/11 on two point jumpers and added six rebounds, six assists and three steals in his first start since the home opener on November 2. It's nice to remember what good Ersan looks like, eh?
Philadelphia led by as many as 14 in the first half, mostly thanks to Michael Carter-Williams' creativity (12 points on 8 shots, 11 ast, 5 steals, 5 turnovers) and Hollis Thompson's energy off the bench. The Bucks' young reserves--you know, Nate Wolters, Khris Middleton and John Henson--were out-worked in the second quarter as Philly ballooned their lead to 47-33, but Butler and Ilyasova came back in to score 16 points in a 20-8 run to finishing the half.
- Milwaukee moved the ball well all night en route to a season-high 34 assists on 41 made shots. Which leads us to the weirdest stat on a night of general weirdness: O.J. Mayo racked up 8 assists and no turnovers! on a night when his jumper was MIA (0/6 threes, 3/12 fg, 9 pts). To his credit, he attacked off the bounce more and more as the night went on, and miraculously that didn't translate into a raft of turnovers. Defensively, Drew hid Ridnour on Anderson most of the night and left Mayo to deal with the explosive MCW, though he didn't have a ton of luck keeping the Sixers' star rookie out of the paint.
- Philly shot 60% in the first half and 57% for the game, begging the obvious question: how did they almost lose this game? The simple answer was turnovers. Philly turned it over a whopping 26 times, including a combined 16 from MCW, Hawes and Turner. The Bucks drew six charges (three from Ersan) and added nine steals, but the Sixers' sloppiness did them plenty of favors all night.
- Henson didn't make much of an impression offensively in 19 minutes, scoring five points on 2/4 shooting to go with three rebounds. But he made a bigger impact on the defensive end, swatting three shots including a spectacular block at the rim on Daniel Orton in the fourth quarter. Henson's still a long way defensively from what Larry Sanders was a year ago, but as a weakside shot-blocker he's made strides.
- Wolters turned it over twice (!) and nearly had a couple more, which for him is saying something. But he also added four assists and scored 7 points on 3/5 shooting in 18 minutes: a tough driving lefty layup, a transition finish, and a long two-pointer. He was solid. Ridnour worked the P&P nicely with Ilyasova (9 ast, 3 to) but also missed six of seven shots.
- Not surprisingly, Caron Butler playing like an all-star isn't going to do anything for Giannis Antetokounmpo's playing time--he DNP'ed for the second straight game.