MILWAUKEE - Game 65 of 66, with a playoff spot already secured and an opponent playing for nothing, had about as much intensity as a day at the beach. Still, the game had to be played and the Sixers JV was better than that of the Milwaukee Bucks, pulling out a 90-85 win. It was the fourth-straight win for the Sixers and improved them to 35-30.
Though no one in the 76ers organization will say so, playing the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs is much more preferred than having to face the Miami Heat for the second-straight year. The win by the Sixers and by New York Wednesday means the two are still tied for the seventh spot in the East, though the Knicks own the tiebreaker. Should the Sixers and Knicks both win or lose Thursday, the Sixers will get the Bulls. If the Sixers win in Detroit and the Knicks lose in Charlotte, then the Sixers will play the Heat.
"I was watching [the Knicks score] a little bit," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "But the one thing I learned is don't start jockeying and start thinking we want to play this team. Win and play who you're supposed to play. Sometimes you can fool yourself and try to be too slick. I've seen teams do that and they start jockeying. We're going to try and win games and then we'll play whoever is in front of us. That's what I was taught to do. That's the way you respect the integrity of the game. Whoever is out there, play to win."
The Sixers were severely shorthanded against the Bucks, by their choice. Starters Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand and sub Thaddeus Young were left in Philadelphia to rest their bodies, and Lou Williams, though with the team, was in street clothes. Milwaukee also was limited, as leading scorer Monta Ellis, along with Carlos Delfino, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova, were all spectators.
"In these last two games, I sat Lou tonight and probably Jrue [Holiday] against Detroit [Thursday]. I didn't want them [Iguodala, Brand and Young] traveling. Those three guys will go to PCOM [the Sixers' practice facility] and do some things. I want them to be fresh. I probably would have done it with Lou, but I told him I wanted him here getting in some shooting with the guys and then let him get a few minutes against Detroit, just to keep sharp. I just felt like those four guys, especially, I wanted to make sure they had some rest. I want to get some guys some good minutes, especially Nik [Vucevic], Lavoy [Allen] and Spencer [Hawes] and I want those guys to get sharp. Against Chicago, if that's who we play, or Miami, you're big guys have to make jump shots."
Apparently Vucevic didn't do much to impress his coach against the Bucks, going for four points and six rebounds in a little more than 14 minutes. After the game, Collins said his big-man rotation for the playoffs would be Brand, Young, Hawes, Allen and perhaps Tony Battie. No mention of Vucevic.
"Tomorrow if we had to play a playoff game, Lavoy and E.B. and Spencer and Thad are my first four bigs, and then based on what I saw tonight, Tony Battie would be my fifth."
With so many regulars not available, the Sixers had to get some scoring somewhere and Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks were happy to oblige. Turner posted a career-high 29 points, while grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing six assists in 40:32, while Meeks scored 27.
"We got the win, so that was cool," Turner said. "It feels good [getting so much playing time], but when you haven't done it in a while, it sort of kills your stomach, and I'm tired. It's cool to get a win and get some playing time. I focus on rebounding and defending, even when the whole team is here. Try to make sure I stay on the court."
With his coaching talking of the importance of rebounding in the playoffs, Turner certainly will be counted on in that area. For Meeks, it was a chance to regain some confidence in his shot, which has been off the mark quite frequently of late.
"It felt good," Meeks said. "With a lot of guys out, I had to play 35 or 40 minutes. I just tried to be patient and shoot the shots I got and be aggressive. In college, I looked to score and got to the line a lot. I was more than just a spot-up shooter. But on this team, my role is just to knock down shots and play hard on defense, which I don't have a problem doing. Tonight, we needed a lot of scoring from me and Evan."
Allen pulled down 12 rebounds and Xavier Silas, just signed by the team for these final two games, scored his first NBA points, getting five total.
Thursday in Detroit, the Sixers will again be shorthanded and again probably will have one eye on the scoreboard as they take care of business on the court. Not a real comfortable situation for players or coaches.
"It was a good win, our guys did a good job," Collins said. "The guys came in and they were competitive. I was proud of them. Xavier did a good job. For 'X' to come in, sight unseen, signed [Tuesday] and give us those kind of minutes, I thought he did a good job. He's an undersized 'two' guard, but he knocked down a three and got to the basket a couple of times. I thought he played good defense. I was happy for him.
"[These type of games] are terribly hard, and they're terribly hard to play. From our standpoint, we got in the playoffs. But what I like about it is we're finishing up our schedule with nine of our last 11 on the road, and we've won four straight road games, which says a lot for us. Now we're going to have to play the first two games of the playoffs on the road, so we're going to have a stretch of 11 of 13 on the road. That's a tough stretch. For our guys to come in tonight and get that win, that was a good win. We have competiveness about us. I like that. Regardless of who plays, guys play to win."
The Sixers attempted 101 shots . . . Milwaukee turned the ball over 21 times, 10 more than the Sixers . . . Only 23 total fouls were called in the game, three of them coming late when the Bucks fouled on purpose . . . Jrue Holiday totaled six points, five assists, five steals and four turnovers in 25:30 . . . Brandon Jennings led the Bucks (31-34) with 19 points.