The NBA decided to get their horror on on Halloween, scheduling last year’s two worst teams to play an unwatchable contest as eyes were focused on a potential Bulls/Cavaliers thriller on ESPN. And in the spirit of Halloween, the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks delivered.
Milwaukee won comfortably, 93-81, behind a 20-7 fourth-quarter run to put it away. Riding a wave of buckets from O.J. Mayo, suddenly back from the dead after a horrible 2013-2014, the Bucks were able to turn what was a pretty close game into a boring ending.
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Quite simply, the Sixers were doomed by some horrific three-point shooting; a trend that’s nothing new. The Sixers shot 5-of-23 from three on the game, and while most of that struggle came in the first half, the Sixers also missed their last six attempts down the stretch, when they just forced shots to attempt to get back into the game, and none of those shots fell. Chris Johnson was the most egregious chucker of the night, shooting 1-of-6, while Hollis Thompson seemed to struggle the most late.
We have to talk about Chris Johnson for a second. This kid from Dayton was kind of an afterthought during training camp, another body that had floated around the league who we were unfamiliar with. He’s started the Sixers’ first two games with Michael Carter-Williams nursing injury, and there’s no discernible reason why. Johnson was pretty non-existent during the Sixers’ loss to the Pacers on Wednesday, with 12 points but some pretty bad defense, and tonight he was garbage, allowing Mayo to score at will and shooting 1-of-11 from the field to finish with four points. Why he is starting and K.J. McDaniels is not is a great question.
The Sixers did get excellent production from McDaniels and Nerlens Noel, who both put up solid numbers and looked consistent on both ends. McDaniels was one of the Sixers’ first subs off the bench and got into a little bit of a scoring duel with Jabari Parker that was fun to watch. He had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and the reason he played just 13 minutes is a total mystery. Noel, on the other hand, was able to post a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, and his interior defense on Larry Sanders and John Henson looked decent. I have a feeling “Noel and McDaniels looked good, most everyone else sucked” is going to be a theme this season.
For the Bucks, Larry Sanders had a solid defensive game, grabbing 15 rebounds (eight defensive), two steals, and four blocks as he limited the Sixers’ paint penetration and forced them to look outside. He also almost scored on his own basket after a jump ball, clearly the highlight of the game:
Overall, this game was basically awful; the teams combined to shoot under 40 percent from the field, neither team could hit a foul shot (12-of-22 for Philly, 12-of-21 for Milwaukee), and Noel and Mayo were really the only players on the floor who could create consistent offense. This game is over, and that’s the best thing I can say about the evening for either side.
The Philadelphia 76ers will now turn around and play a home game against the Miami Heat tomorrow night. While that’s not the death sentence a game against the Heat was last year, don’t expect a pleasant 76ers’ back-to-back experience.