When Caron Butler (38 points) nailed a three-pointer with 2 minutes, 27 seconds to go, the Bucks had a secure, 10-point lead. But if this young season has taught us anything about this club, things rarely goes as planned. On the next three Sixers possessions, James Anderson hit a three-pointer and then Spencer Hawes nailed a pair to make it 98-97. Milwaukee built it back up to three at 102-99 when what may remain as the play of the season transpired.
Inbounding the ball from the left sideline just above the Milwaukee bench, Evan Turner found Hawes running toward the sideline with his back to the basket. Somehow, the 7-footer caught the ball, spun on his right foot and launched a perfect one-footed, falling out-of-bounds three that tied the game. That was all the Sixers, needed as Turner took over in the extra stanza by scoring eight of his 27 points to help provide the team with its sixth win in 14 games.
"Coach drew it up in the huddle," said Hawes, who backed Turner with 25 points and also snared 12 rebounds. "I thought he screwed something up. But I liked where his head was at. On a serious note, we knew they were switching, so we were trying to do something to combat that. Evan did a great job on the pass, holding it a little bit longer than it was designed to to let me get a little more space and chuck one up there from the corner. I didn't intend to shoot it off one foot. That is not how I saw it going through my mind."
This season hasn't really gone the way many thought, either. Hawes has played beyond anyone's expectations thus far, and posted his ninth double-double of the season. Turner has proved to be the team's closer on many nights, and rookie Michael Carter-Williams (12 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, six fouls, five each of turnovers and steals) is really the key that makes this team go.
But last night there was even more.
With Thaddeus Young missing his second straight game because of personal reasons, Brown again had to deal with how to adjust his lineup. He started Daniel Orton at center again, and shoved Hawes down to power forward. Offensively, that seems to not hurt the team so much, but at the defensive end, it was troubling, as Hawes often was matched up against the quicker Ersan Ilyasova (19 points).
Instead of playing chess with all that, though, Brown stuck with it. He could live with that disadvantage only because his bench gave him such strong minutes.
And if you had said before that at some point during the season the group of Lavoy Allen, Tony Wroten, Brandon Davies, Elliot Williams and Hollis Thompson would help the Sixers pull out a victory, then you're about as truthful as Lee Harvey Oswald was 50 years ago.
It was a yawner of a game late in the first quarter when Brown had his full staff of reserves, which lacked much height, on the floor. The score was 23-15, Sixers. When he went back to his starters midway through the second, the lead had grown to 43-31.
"I don't like to go small, I don't feel as organized offensively, I don't like it," Brown said. "I feel more comfortable defensively, which sometimes trumps the in-game decisions. Ilyasova, although people call him a 'four' man, he's mobile and could be a 'three' if you really stretch your imagination a little bit. Staying big with Ilyasova and having Spencer chase him around is not something I'm excited about."
The first half stories included Thompson pouring in 10 points in his 8-minute stint, including a highlight-finding alley-oop that had him many feet above the rim. Allen collecting eight points and four rebounds and Wroten dealing six assists. The bench outscored Milwaukee's, 26-14, at the break and had helped the Sixers make 24 of their 40 shots (60 percent).
Though Wroten was lost in the second half to a lower back strain, the subs more than held their own. Thompson posted a career high 16 points and Allen finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 34 solid minutes. At one point, forward Brandon Davies had a box out in the second half that resembled the block thrown by Michael Oher in the movie "Blind Side."
"They came with energy," Brown said of the second unit. "We're trying to sell that group as just something that can energize the team and be something that the fans want to see. We take that second group and wind them up and try to get them to play with that type of energy and at times it might look a little bit college with full court pressure. I hope that group embraces that style and that role, because they're athletic and young enough to pull that off, and it's not like they're going to be worn down with 30-something minutes in their window of time. That's what we'll be looking for from that group."
Thaddeus Young missed his second straight game as he is away from the team to deal with a family issue. Said Brett Brown of the situation: "We are going to allow him his space to let him handle the situation as he feels it best suits him and his family. When he decides it's appropriate, here we are" . . . Concerning the health status of Tony Wroten, Brown said that he didn't expect him to play tonight when the team plays in Indiana . . . The Bucks have now lost seven straight . . . The Sixers won the rebounding battle by 50-32 and also shot 57 percent (45-for-79) from the floor. Those numbers helped offset the season-high 26 turnovers.
On Twitter: @BobCooney76