Twenty four hours removed from clinching their spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bucks' task in Philadelphia tonight is clear: Don't let up.
Easy wins over the Knicks and Nets made the weekend a very good one for Jason Kidd and company, and in general there's ample good news as the Bucks ready for a date with the Sixers: They're back at .500 (40-40), they've sewed up both a playoff spot and the sixth seed, Giannis Antetokounmpo is back doing Giannis things, and Michael Carter-Williams has looked increasingly comfortable (and dare we say...efficient?) running Milwaukee's offense over the past week. Throw in the star-studded #SeeTheFuture event tonight at the Bradley Center, and there's suddenly good vibes in Milwaukee again despite the Bucks' 10-17 record since the all-star break.
Not surprisingly, the Bucks will be heavy favorites heading into a road matchup with MCW's former team, though clinching the six spot also affords Kidd the opportunity to rest some of his usual rotation guys:
Kidd said some players minutes will be reduced now that Bucks have clinched 6th spot. Dudley will not make trip to Philly to rest back.— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) April 12, 2015
Zaza Pachulia would seem to be another guy in line for a reduced workload tonight and on Wednesday, though I'd personally prefer the Bucks stick with their usual starting five just for the sake of continuity. It doesn't mean anyone needs to play 40 minutes, but it's not as if the Bucks' rotation couldn't benefit from some additional reps either.
As for Carter-Williams, he admits that returning to Philly will give the game "a little edge," and Keith Pompey of the Philly Enquirer reports that MCW is finally getting his bearings after some initial struggles.
"There were some tough spots," Carter-Williams said. "It was my first time getting traded. I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't know what my teammates were thinking. They lost one of their teammates, too [Brandon Knight, in the trade]. . . . We're all on the same page now and we're definitely now all adjusted."
At 18-62, the Sixers are fairly locked into the third spot in the lottery standings, with the Timberwolves and Knicks tied for the top spot at 16-64 and the fourth-ranked Lakers three games "behind" Philly at 21-59. By virtue of the MCW deal, Philly would also get the Lakers' pick if if falls outside the top five, though the odds of that aren't great at the moment (17.2%).
As for the actual guys wearing uniforms...well, keep a roster handy while watching the game tonight. Philly hung tough in Chicago on Saturday despite dressing only nine guys (and no point guards), and the injury list figures to be long again tonight.
Nerlens Noel is by far the Sixers' most interesting player (13.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 53% true shooting, 2.3 bpg since the all-star break) but he's not expected to play due to a sprained ankle. Ditto for former Buck Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder), Isaiah Canaan (ankle), Joel Embiid (foot), and Tony Wroten (knee). Former Buck and current Sixers starting PG Ish Smith is also questionable with a groin injury, while Robert Covington is expected to play despite a calf injury.
Philly's offense has been nothing short of abysmal all season, ranking 29th in eFG% and dead last in both turnovers and overall offensive efficiency. Defensively they're much more respectable, though it's almost entirely driven by their ability to force turnovers (2nd). Interestingly, Philly ranks just 18th in eFG% and in the league's bottom third in defensive rebound rate and free throw rate allowed.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
(18-62, 12-27 home)
|April 13, 2015|
|Well Fargo Center | Philadelphia, PA|
|FS Wisconsin HD | 105.7 The Fan|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Jakarr Sampson|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Jason Richardson|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Robert Covington|
|Ersan Ilyasova||PF||Jerami Grant|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Furkan Aldemir|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.9 (13th)||Pace||95.6 (7th)|
|102.7 (26th)||ORtg||95.4 (30th)|
|102.3 (4th)||DRtg||104.8 (13th)|