The Sixers could look back at losing to the Bucks (6-21) as a huge missed opportunity. That's because they will be hard-pressed to steal any wins during their five-game post-Christmas road trip, with stops at Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, Sacramento, and Portland.
"This definitely was a good opportunity for us to steal one on the road," reserve shooting guard James Anderson said. "We came up short. But at the same time we competed throughout the whole game. And it went all the way down to the end."
Some might argue with Anderson's assessment.
The Sixers pulled within seven points, 106-99, with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining. But the Bucks held the lead from the 4-minute, 59-second mark of the first quarter. From the middle of the third quarter, they mostly maintained a comfortable lead.
"I just think defensively we struggled, whether it was the three or the two," coach Brett Brown said. "I thought our defense was the problem."
The Bucks shot 52.4 percent (43 of 82) from the field and led by as many as 19 points.
But on this night, the Sixers had the toughest time stopping forwards Khris Middleton and Caron Butler.
Middleton made 11 of 15 shots to finish with a team-high 27 points. Butler added 22 points and 11 rebounds.
"Our energy and anything we do defensively has to be done in a group," Brown said. "We don't boast individual all-star-caliber-type defenders."
Still, there was a thought that the Sixers might be able to have their way with the Bucks. After all, Milwaukee has the league's worst record. It also headed into the game carrying a five-game losing streak.
A lot of that had to do with Milwaukee's injuries. Centers Larry Sanders (thumb), John Hensen (left knee), and Zaza Pachulia (right foot); forward Carlos Delfino (foot); and guard Gary Neal (foot) were all sidelined with injuries.
But the Bucks were aided by the return of Butler, who had missed the previous 12 games with a sore left knee.
The 6-foot-7, 217-pound swingman didn't show any signs of rust. He scored six of the Bucks' first 10 points en route to 13 points at intermission.
While Butler shined, Evan Turner and Anderson struggled mightily for the Sixers.
Turner, a swingman, scored 10 points on 2-for-15 shooting before fouling out in the closing seconds one night after producing a game-high 29. Anderson missed all seven of his shots and finished with two points.
Thaddeus Young had a game-high 30 points and 10 rebounds. Center Spencer Hawes (25 points, 11 rebounds) and point guard Michael Carter-Williams (19 points, 12 assists) also posted double-doubles for the Sixers. But on this night, it wasn't close to being good enough.