MILWAUKEE -- When April 17 rolls around, the Sixers may likely look back at Wednesday’s 94-92 loss to Milwaukee as the game that took away their hopes of reaching the postseason for a third straight time since Doug Collins took over as head coach.
The Bucks erased a 10-point, first-quarter deficit by scoring 16 points off 15 Sixers’ turnovers and holding the Sixers to 6 of 23 shooting in the fourth quarter (see Instant Replay).
“Turnovers, even at the start, were hurting us,” said Spencer Hawes, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “I mean they scored 16 points off turnovers. It is hard to win when you give away that many easy ones.”
“I told our guys against this team turnovers really hurt you,” Collins said after the Sixers’ record dropped to 22-29. “We did fight. We had some dry spells. We still don’t do a good job of recognizing when teams are trapping Jrue [Holiday]. We are going too fast.”
“It is on all five, not just the guy being trapped,” Hawes added. “We have to present ourselves earlier and get in the right spots and we have to get off the ball quick. But then we have to make a play when we get on the back end. You can’t run away from the ball and an opportunity to make a play 4-on-3.”
The Sixers were up 50-43 at halftime, and had held the Bucks to 35 percent shooting. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis were kept in check as they combined for 17 points in the first half.
However, Jennings hit the Sixers with 12 points in the third quarter before finishing with 21. Ellis finished with 27 points.
Scoring became easier as the night went on for Milwaukee’s backcourt. The same could not be said for the Sixers.
Nick Young made his first four shots and had 12 points at the end of the first quarter. He was just 0 for 2 from the field the rest of the game and 2 of 2 at the foul line to finish with 14 points.
Picking up two personal fouls in the first eight minutes of the game didn’t help Young’s cause to stay in an early rhythm.
“I think his foul trouble kind of got him out of rhythm.” Hawes said of Young. “He is a guy when he is rolling you have to keep him going. That is on all of us. We have to get him shots, we need him to score. It is on all of us when he is not getting attempts. It is on him to make them, but we have to help him get them up.”
Despite their struggles to score in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had a great look at a tying basket from Jrue Holiday who, pulled up for a 12-footer that clanked off the rim with seven seconds remaining.
“I really thought that shot was going in,” Holiday said. “Unfortunately, situations happen and we really didn’t get another chance to tie up the game. Very disappointed, but we have to move on from it.”
Holiday’s was aggressive on the rebound of his miss and tied up Luc Mbah a Moute for a jump ball. Holiday won the tap with the ball ending up in Royal Ivey’s hands with five seconds to play.
“I got up on that,” Holiday said. “I tipped it to (Ivey), and then I think he tried to get it back to me but Luc tipped it. I thought, honestly, it was going out of bounds, but he made a smart play tipping it to the backcourt, running out the time.”
The Sixers had two timeouts before that crucial jump ball but elected not to use them.
“Before the jump ball you are supposed to think about it,” Young said. “It is one of those situations you wish you could have back, but you never know what you are going to do in the heat of the moment.”
The Sixers’ loss was the third this season to the Bucks and they now sit four games behind Milwaukee for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers have 31 games remaining when they return from the All-Star break. Thaddeus Young is recovering from a hamstring strain and Andrew Bynum is still working his way onto the court for the first time this season.
If the Sixers’ postseason picture becomes any bleaker than it currently is, those reinforcements may be even slower to get back on the hardwood.