MILWAUKEE - Sometimes change is a good thing, whether done out of necessity or just because. Sometimes it just doesn't make any difference.
It was the latter for the 76ers last night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite a couple of changes to the starting lineup, the Sixers lost for the 10th time in 14 games, this time by 97-93.
Coach Doug Collins decided his team needed a different look, so second-year swingman Evan Turner got his first start of the season in place of Jodie Meeks and rookie Nikola Vucevic replaced fellow rookie Lavoy Allen at the center spot.
Though the lineup was different, the result was oh, so familiar. The Sixers now are 2-12 in games decided by seven points or fewer and 0-7 in games decided by fewer than five.
After a first quarter that produced a season-high-tying 33 points and a first half that ended with the Sixers ahead, 55-51, a horrendous offensive effort in the last 24 minutes was the Sixers' undoing. The team scored only 38 points in the second half and made only 13 of their 49 shots from the floor.
"We shot 13-for-49 in the second half," Collins said. "Who you gonna beat? It came down to a one-possession game, even when you shoot 13-for-49 in the second half. That's the frustrating part. I just don't know what's happened to where we can't make a shot. As a coach you can't dwell on that, obviously, but . . .
"I thought we played fatigued, five games in 7 nights. I thought the turning point of the game was the start of the third quarter. I thought we had a chance to go up 12 or 15 points on them. We missed free throws, missed layups, turned the ball over."
Still, somehow, the Sixers found themselves with a chance to win.
Trailing 93-85 with 2:17 left in the game, Lou Williams completed a three-point play and a little over a minute later, drained three foul shots after a getting hacked on a three-pointer to knot the game 93-93 with 1:10 to go.
Milwaukee's Beno Udrih hit a short jumper with 58.2 seconds left. The Sixers had the ball after a timeout with 23 seconds left and ran an isolation for Williams. But his runner fell off to the right side, and a tip by Thaddeus Young didn't fall, and the Sixers dropped to 22-17, having now lost six of their last eight.
"We just fight, we always find ways to fight our way back into games," said Williams, who led the Sixers with 26 points, but missed 10 of his 17 shots. "When it comes down to that last minute or 2 minutes, we can't get over that hump. I don't really know how to pinpoint it. I know it's just happening. It's a hump that we have to get over to get back on the winning track."
Collins hoped that the change to the starting lineup would do just that. Though the changes helped in the high-scoring first quarter, they did not carry the team to a much-needed win.
"I just wanted to calm Jodie down a little bit," Collins said of not starting Meeks. "I think he's been pressing. He came out and hit his first four shots [en route to 13]. And then [he wanted] to put Evan out there and see what we could do. If I'm going to make a lineup change, I don't want it to be one guy, because it [singles one out]. We put Nik out there, and he got in early foul trouble and never really got started. We were ahead at the end of the first quarter. I thought we played well throughout the change. I thought guys came in and played well. But once again, 13 out of 49 . . . "
As for the play of Turner, who finished with two points on 1-for-12 shooting, but did grab 12 rebounds, Collins said: "He rebounded well. He's not sharp, so with his shooting, he's 1-for-12."
Turner wasn't exactly glowing about his performance either.
"I felt fine," he said, sporting a mouse over his right eye. "I think I rebounded well and played solid defense. My shot didn't fall, but I felt fine. We're just trying to find the right rhythm, the right groove, the right set. When you lose seven out of nine, now eight out of 10, you just try to find what works and mismatching and everything."
Bucks guard Brandon Jennings was the biggest mismatch problem for the Sixers, as he went off for a game-high 33 points, including 19 in the first quarter. When he wasn't getting it done from the outside, center Drew Gooden (25 points, 10 rebounds) and forward Ersan Ilyasova (11 points, 18 rebounds) were pounding it in the paint.
Starting center Spencer Hawes missed his 25th game of the season, and 24th in 26, as he remained in Philadelphia getting treatment on his strained Achilles' tendon. Coach Doug Collins said Hawes rode a bike and did work on an elliptical machine, as well as some stand-still shooting. The hope is that Hawes will get more and more work on the court on his own throughout the week, then join the team for practice on Monday, with hopes of returning next week, possibly Wednesday at Indiana.
"When he does come back, it's going to be only for 5 minutes a quarter and he won't play back-to-back games," Collins said. "Then the hope is that we can build up his strength and stamina and he'll be ready to go full at it not long after that."
Andre Iguodala had 16 points for the Sixers, while Thaddeus Young had 14 points and 13 rebounds . . . Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the front row near midcourt . . . The Sixers were able to convert only 16 of their 23 foul shots . . . Lavoy Allen played only 6:59 off the bench . . . The Sixers will host the Boston Celtics tomorrow night and the Utah Jazz on Friday before playing at the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.
Read his blog at www.philly.com/Sixerville.