The Bucks just can’t shake the mojo that the Philadelphia 76ers have over them, and they fell victim to it once again Friday in a regrettable 90-79 loss to the (ouch) 2-10 Sixers in Philly. Throw the team records out — Sixers have won three of the last five matchups and 6 0f 8 since Scott Skiles took over as coach. Philly had won 7 straight before the Bucks seemingly broke the spell last January in what was likely Allen Iverson’s last game in the arena where he staged so many of his career highlights – the Bradley Center.
The Sixers have always been the Bucks nemesis, their greatest rival when times were good and Nellie’s Bucks in the early 1980’s were one of the best teams in the NBA — one of the best teams in history never to win a title, and certainly the best team in NBA history never to play in the Finals. Forget 1991, the year the 48-win Del Harris Bucks were swept out of the playoffs by Charles Barkley’s Sixers — there was something else amiss in Philly’s recent domination of the Bucks. It can be traced back to Iverson’s first shot in the NBA, an airball that bounced harmlessly out of bounds on Nov. 1, 1996.
Was the spell broken last January? Alas, no — “The Airball” is still exacting its revenge, and the Sixers showed Friday that they don’t need “The Answer,” Andre Iguodala or Sam Dalembert to stymie the Bucks — Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams will do just fine, shades of 2008 and 2009 when the Sixers were winning seven straight against the sluggish Michael Redd teams. Interesting to note that Young and Williams are Mo Cheeks players, guys who, like their coach in his playing days, have always seemed to light up when they see a Milwaukee Bucks uniform.
The 5-8 Bucks. The silver lining for the Bucks these days could be the realization that, for the most part — until last weekend — they’ve been playing fairly well against a tough early season schedule and coming up painfully short in a few close games (two against the Hornets, OT in Boston and Saturday in a very winnable game against the Thunder, playing without Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer. Add that one-point loss to either of the Hornets games as one the Bucks want back.
Yet it’s some consolation that their strength of schedule ranking is 12th in the league, better than everybody in the Central Division but the Bulls, with two Central games on the schedule this week in Cleveland and Detroit. On some level, the Bucks have simply been an unlucky team that can’t catch a break.
The Bucks schedule for the first 35 games is tough, at no time tougher than next week when they head west for a Utah-Denver road swing, then come back home to play the Heat and the Magic. No, it’s not much consolation, but the Bucks record should eventually turn around. It will probably take a while … and they’ll have to do some good work on the road in the west in December to mitigate the depth of the hole they’ll likely be in come January. Maybe they’ll even get lucky a time or two.