MILWAUKEE - From the opening introductions, you could tell Michael Carter-Williams was a little more amped to play this game.
Most of it was due to his playing against his former team, the one that traded him after he garnered rookie of the year honors. There had to be a good bit of it, though, that had to do with the fact he's been playing really good basketball of late.
MCW posted pedestrian numbers in his first 11 starts of the season, prompting coach Jason Kidd to relegate him to the bench. That turned into a bit of a roller-coaster ride, also, as Carter-Williams was inconsistent, at best.
But after two solid games off the bench in a win against Golden State that broke the Warriors' season-opening winning streak at 24 and a loss at the Lakers to begin a four-game road trip, MCW was back with the starters, and his play has accelerated.
Interim coach Joe Prunty started Carter-Williams for the fourth consecutive game Wednesday, and he was instrumental in helping the Bucks to a 113-100 win.
Over the past six games, MCW is averaging 19.2 points while shooting 54.8 percent from the floor. He was all over the floor against the Sixers in posting 18 points, nine assists and five rebounds. He and his fellow starters combined to shoot 40-for-55 (72.7 percent). Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 22 points, while missing only two of his 13 shots.
"The biggest thing (for Carter-Williams) is be assertive, be aggressive," said Prunty, filling in for Kidd, who had hip surgery Monday. "It's not an issue of whether you're starting or coming off the bench, whatever it is, we want you to be an assertive, aggressive player. He's got to make the right reads. We don't want the ball to stick with him or with anybody on the offensive end. Defensively, pick up, pressure. Be aggressive and assertive offensively, be the same thing defensively. He has the ability to be very good on both sides of the ball.
"I think he's learning and growing. Everybody looks at the team and thinks we've been together for a long stretch of time. Michael played 29 games with us last year, and actually he didn't even play 29 games, because he was injured when he got here. He played in the playoffs with us. The point is, everybody thinks young players are going to be exactly what they're going to be as soon as they step on the floor. It takes time. He's learning new teammates.
"The other thing to keep in mind is that when we say, 'Be aggressive, be assertive,' that doesn't mean to necessarily take a shot every time. It means make the right reads, make quick decisions, move the ball and, if there's a driving lane and you're open, take it."
Many, many Bucks were open against the Sixers, who dropped their 12th straight in falling to 1-30. Once again, the Sixers turned the ball over at an alarming rate (23, leading to 36 Milwaukee points). The defense was about as visible as snow will be this Christmas, and right now believing this team will get another win is on par with trust in Santa Claus and reindeer.
"I have to play better. I can't hurt the team the way I have been," said the Sixers' Kendall Marshall, who finished with six turnovers and seven assists. "That's the way coach (Brett Brown) wants to run the offense, through the point guard, and I have to do a better job making sure we're getting great shots and defensively making sure we're taking care of our positions and finishing plays with rebounds."
Jahlil Okafor scored 17 points and Hollis Thompson added 16 for the Sixers, who will head out west on Saturday for five games.
"We buried ourselves in the first period, getting down by 17 and losing by 13," Brown said. "The turnovers account for so much. Defensively, I thought we were poor in the first half. Some of it is with the 14 first-half turnovers. The volume of points is, by and large, very reflective of us chasing five-on-four, four-on-three.
"It's still that toughness and positional balance and keeping the point guards in front of us. We have lost some sting that we created last season. It's my greatest discomfort when our team doesn't guard."
The next time the Sixers step on a court, it will be in Phoenix on Saturday night.
There will be at least one new addition to the bench (you never know what else may transpire with this team before then) as new associate head coach Mike D'Antoni will take a seat near head man Brett Brown.
"We continue to play text-tag and talk on the phone," Brown said. "He's come into our office and we just sat down for many, many, many hours with me and our other two bench assistants (Lloyd Pierce and Billy Lange). We said, 'This is what we do,' and we put in some of his old tape and see how we can connect the dots. How lucky am I to come from an offensive system like the San Antonio Spurs that saw five NBA championships, and combine that with what he did in Phoenix and then with the Lakers and the Knicks?
"Mike is offensive-minded. That's what he is known for. So the combination of how do you post and pick-and-roll in space is an interesting one to have, and I just enjoy talking basketball with somebody of his background."
On Twitter: @BobCooney76