Game Preview: 76ers @ Bucks

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Scene Setter:

The 76ers (1-29) are on the road again, opening their second six-game trek of the season at 8:00 PM EST on Wednesday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, home to the Milwaukee Bucks (11-18).  This trip will last 10 days, and take the Sixers to five Western Conference cities following their second clash of the year with Milwaukee.  The Bucks are also in the midst of a road-heavy segment of their schedule.  Wednesday will be one of two home games they play in the span of 10 outings.  Milwaukee’s previous game in its own building was a 108-95 win over the Golden State Warriors, which marks Golden State’s lone loss.

In the front-end of their seventh back-to-back pair of contests to-date, the Sixers displayed a determined spirit at the outset, keeping within six points of the Memphis Grizzlies by the time intermission had arrived.  Memphis, however, reaped the rewards of the 28 turnovers the Sixers committed, turning those miscues into 36 points in a 104-90 victory at The Center.  Jahlil Okafor relied on both muscle and finesse footwork to continually get to the basket, maneuvering around big men 10 and 14 years his senior (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph).  He piled up a Sixers-high 18 points. Hollis Thompson buried four three-pointers, and cranked out 16 points, his second-highest total of the season.

Milwaukee figures to be relatively well-rested, having recently wrapped up a four-game Western Conference trek of its own with a 101-95 triumph in Phoenix.  The trip also stopped at Golden State, and in Los Angeles, where Milwaukee faced both the Lakers and Clippers.  Heading into the season, the Bucks were banking on big-time free agent investment Greg Monroe to help the franchise take its next step forward.  Milwaukee made a surprise run to the playoffs last spring, but so far, the center hasn’t proved to be the missing link.  Following a 4-3 start to the schedule, the Bucks have gone 7-15.  Of note, five of Milwaukee’s 11 victories this year have come against Atlantic Division foes. 

Series:

The Sixers nearly managed to snap their current losing streak to Milwaukee in the teams’ first battle this season, a 91-87 victory for the Bucks.  Milwaukee has taken a franchise-best seven meetings in a row from the Sixers, using a 9-2 run during the final two and a half minutes of regulation on November 4th to seal its latest win in the series.  Nerlens Noel was the Sixers’ top performer at the BMO Harris Bradley Center that evening, collecting 17 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the current campaign.  Jahlil Okafor tacked on 21 points.  Khris Middleton make several clutch deposits in the closing minutes, and matched Okafor for game-high scoring honors.

Subplots:

  • In abiding by the recovery roadmap laid out by the Sixers’ performance team, Brett Brown said he intends to use Kendall Marshall as his top point guard versus Milwaukee.  The four-year veteran was required to sit out the first game of the Sixers’ back-to-back, so as not to put his right knee under too much duress.  Marshall, while with the Bucks last season, tore his ACL in January, and still hasn’t been cleared to appear in games played on consecutive nights.  The same medical guidelines apply to Tony Wroten, who started Tuesday’s tilt against Memphis.  As a result, he’s not expected to be available Wednesday, as was the case for Marshall on Tuesday.  Wroten also injured his right ACL last January.

    Marshall has so far made five appearances for the Sixers since being cleared to return on December 11th.  In his latest contest this past Sunday in Cleveland, the 2012 NBA Draft lottery pick punched in eight points (3-7 fg), a season-high, and handed out four assists.  He also gave away three turnovers.  Brown estimated that Marshall will likely receive about 25 minutes worth of action on Wednesday.

  • Steve Kerr now has company, in the figurative sense.  The head coach of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors has had to temporarily give up his day-to-day responsibilities due to injury.  Kerr, who steered Golden State to a franchise-record 67 wins in his rookie year on the sideline, underwent two back surgeries this off-season, and is still on the mend.

    Jason Kidd, Kerr’s counterpart in Milwaukee, is currently in the midst of a similar situation himself.  On Monday, Kidd announced that he had to take an immediate leave of absence from the Bucks in order to address the “chronic” right hip discomfort he’s been experiencing since, he judged, the tail end of his playing career, which came to a close in 2013.

    “The pain has been to the point where I can’t function,” Kidd told reporters Monday.  “’ve taken all the medicine I can do.  Talking with the doctors, there’s really no good time to do a surgery.  I have to fix myself, and then move on and get back to work.”

    Kidd had the operation performed in New York City on Monday.  He doesn’t doubt that his 19 years spent in the NBA is the reason why he had to go under the knife.   

    “Some would say it’s the 55,000 minutes I tried to play,” said Kidd.  “A lot of wear and tear on my body.  I’ve been blessed not to have too many surgeries, but this is just one that has taken away from me being able to sleep and function, and hopefully do the right thing, especially when I’m trying to help these guys be the best they can be.”

    Kidd is in his second campaign running Milwaukee.  Before joining the organization 2014, he completed one year with Brooklyn.  His career head coaching record is 96-97.  Kidd hopes to be back in the Bucks’ office within two weeks.

  • When last in Milwaukee, Michael Carter-Williams, the 76ers’ second-ever NBA Rookie of the Year Award recipient, was sidelined with a strained left ankle, and therefore missed out on his third opportunity to go up against the team that drafted him.  Dealt to the Bucks at the February 2015 trade deadline, Carter-Williams opened the present campaign as Milwaukee’s starting point guard; however, uneven play upon his return from injury ultimately led to a demotion.

    During a string of 10 games from November 29th through December 15th, the Syracuse product was used exclusively as a bench contributor.  About midway through this stretch, however, Carter-Williams delivered a pair of 20-point performances, one of which was a double-double, in the span of four days.  Not too long after that, Jason Kidd bumped Carter-Williams back up to the Bucks’ starting group, where he’s been for the last three games.  In all, over his past five appearances, Carter-Williams has averaged 19.4 points per game (shooting 52.5 percent), tallying no fewer than 17 points in a single contest, while also producing 27 assists against 11 turnovers.

    In speaking to reporters about his resurgence, Carter-Williams said, “I think it’s my patience.  I’m being patient.  Guys are trusting me.  We’re just flowing as a whole team, and everybody’s contributing in the right way.”

    Carter-Williams faced the Sixers twice a year ago.  The first time was in his Milwaukee debut, when he scored seven points and distributed eight assists at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.  He then drained 30 points versus the Sixers at The Center in the Bucks’ second-to-last regular season game.

Sixers Health Report:

  • Carl Landry (right wrist)

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