Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Preview

Game Info:  8:00 PM, BMO Harris Bradley Center, Airing on NBA TV

A day removed from a gut-wrenching 90-85 loss on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the San Antonio Spurs, the Philadelphia 76ers (17-24) travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks (21-18) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday night.

The Sixers have struggled mightily as they hit the midpoint of their season. Jrue Holiday has shown he is worthy of All-Star consideration, averaging 19.2 points and 8.9 assists per game through the first 41 games. Inconsistency has been the achilles’ heel thus far this season, and it was well on display Monday night against the Spurs. After struggling by 17 points at one point, the Sixers took control in the second half. From midway through the third quarter into the fourth quarter, the Sixers went on a 23-7 run before having a stretch of one point in thirteen possessions.

The Bucks came into Philly for the one and only match-up of these two teams in 2012-2013 back on November 12th. Brandon Jennings showcased his abilities scoring 33 points, and completely taking over the game. The first time these two teams met, the Bucks dominated down low, scoring 42 points in the paint in comparison to the 24 the Sixers had. Milwaukee controlled the glass as well, holding the Sixers to just 31 rebounds while grabbing 48 of their own. Jrue Holiday and company have yet to win a game this season when their opponent shoots 50% or higher from the field, and have struggled to get stops early in the game for whatever reason. Back in the mid-November match-up, the Bucks shot 63.9% in the first half, and the Sixers failed to ever fully recover.

Due to the fact that the Eastern Conference is weak across the board, the Sixers are still in playoff contention, but if they plan to be playing this post season, they have to start playing more consistently. Much has been made of Andrew Bynum’s return to practice, but he is still a month away from stepping foot on the court for the 76ers. The Sixers need to start winning now, and not count on Bynum to save the season. Now that the midpoint of the season has come and gone, the next few weeks will determine whether or not this season is a lost cause.

For the Sixers to win this game, they will need to get off to a fast start. Too many times this season, the opposition has jumped out to an early lead. More importantly than getting off to a good offensive start, the Sixers need to establish themselves on the defensive end of the court. This team without Andrew Bynum is undersized, young, and fast, but they do not get out in transition nearly as often as they should. Look for the Sixers to try to run off stops on the defensive end, and try to get Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young some easy looks at the basket. On the other hand, they need to keep the Bucks’ explosive guards, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, out of the paint and out of transition. Last but most certainly not least, if it is a close game late in the fourth quarter, the Sixers need to do a better job of executing. After grabbing the lead against the Spurs last night, the Sixers forced shots early in the shot clock, turned the ball over, and settled for contested perimeter jump shots.

If the Sixers want to be a playoff team, it needs to start in Milwaukee tonight. A day removed from a game they had an opportunity to beat an elite team with Jrue Holiday struggling, they need to set the tone early and sustain it tonight.

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