Considering the beatdown the Bucks laid on the Sixers three weeks ago – paired with their defensive prowess – it comes as no surprise that they were able to force Philadelphia into an abysmal shooting performance (40%) en route to an overtime win over the playoff-bound Sixers.
Ranked fourth in the NBA in total defense the Bucks were able to limit the Sixers' easy baskets and force them to execute in the half-court more than they would like. The result: 79 points at the end of regulation, 87 points total, on 40% shooting.
Maybe playing the Bucks in Milwaukee is just a bad look for the Sixers considering they've shot around 40% and failed to muster 80 points in regulation both games, but maybe we're seeing what happens when teams force the Sixers to execute offensively.
As witnessed in the playoffs every year, the game slows down, easy baskets are limited, and the Sixers won't simply out-run and out-jump teams on a regular basis; execution is key. If you think tonight's offensive performance was painfully ugly, it's not going to get any easier when the Sixers face either the second (Boston) or fifth (Miami) best defensive team in the league (in their building) in the first round.
Which brings me to my next point: the Sixers chances of winning a playoff series are slim as it is, but they evaporate if they have injuries, especially guys like Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams. Lou left tonight's game with a strained hamstring, and Andre looked like a shell of himself on the second game of a back-to-back. The Sixers are already locked in to a playoff spot, and they'll face a distinct disadvantage regardless of first round opponent, so why not rest the ailing Iguodala and Williams for a few games? I understand the fear of disrupting the team's rhythm so close to playoff time, but I see nothing wrong with sitting them the next three games – giving them eight days off – and bringing them back for the final two games to work any rust off before the playoffs.
In seven games since sitting with knee stiffness Iguodala is shooting 40%, averaging 2.6 turnovers, and playing less dominant defense than we're used to seeing. He's visibly hurting during the games, but Collins continues to trot him out there for 38 minutes a night. Doug seems adamant in not resting players, which I think is a bad decision, especially when the player in question is your best player, playing through an injury.
Normally we'd take this time to break down individual performances but there's not much to break down tonight. Below are some quick hits.
- Jrue Holiday had a few nice passes and floaters, but overall a very un-Jrue like game on both ends.
- Jodie Meeks game continues to evolve, integrating more mid-range jumpers, moves without the ball, and cuts to the basket into his previously one-dimensional spot-up-for-three act.
- Spencer Hawes had a solid game, playing good defense (!) on Bogut and Gooden when called upon and fighting for boards. His offense – as always – left much to be desired. Too many jumpers and poor finishing around the rim.
- Marreese Speights played seven minutes.
- Elton Brand carried the offense down the stretch with jumper, after jumper, after jumper ....