The Revenge of the Airball struck again in Philly

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.

8 thoughts on “The Revenge of the Airball struck again in Philly

  1. Kevin

    Back to reality, the 5-9 bucks are sinking like a stone, and the upcoming schedule could bury them for the season. Thinking about next year already.

  2. Kevin

    More info, Jon McGlocklin missed the 1972 Laker series. And in ’71, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were out for LA.

  3. Kevin

    Bucks best chance for a second title was against Boston in 1974. They won game six in double overtime in Boston but lost game seven at home. The visiting team won 5 of the 7 games and Boston used a strangling full court press to take the Bucks out of their offense. Lucius Allen missed the playoffs and his replacement, Ron Williams was benched in the Boston series because he was unable to cope with the press. But he played a major role in the first two rounds. Milwaukee also need overtime to win game two, so the series wasn’t really as close as the seven games suggests.
    In 1972, they won game one in LA and a freak play with the ball bouncing off the referee resulted in a one point loss in game two. They almost went back to Milwaukee up 2-0, but it was 1-1 and the Lakers recovered and won in 6 Their bench was better that year with John Block and Wali Jones added. Block turned out to be the player to be named later for Jones, going to Philly the next year.
    1973, they won their final 14 games, still a record, to tie LA with 60 wins and beat LA the last game of the year. That tied the season series and the Bucks won a coin flip to face Golden State instead of Chicago. But the Warriors somehow upset the possibly worn out Bucks in six.
    The team was kept together for the most part. But the bad breaks kept them at one title.

  4. J.D. Mo. Post author

    That Bucks team still get mentioned as one of the most dominant teams in history, which they were statistically in 1971, based on point differential. But the Frazier-Reed-Bradley-DeBuscher Knicks had their number (1 and 4 vs. NY) — the Bucks caught a break in the 1971 playoffs when Unseld and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe’s Bullets team upset the Knicks in Game 7 of the East finals.

    It was before my time, but I wonder whether the Bucks might have won a second title had they held that team together for a few years? Bob Boozer, of course, retired after the 1971 championship. Then, a third of the way into the 1971 season, needing a power forward, the Bucks traded good shooting Greg Smith to Houston for a 1972 first round draft pick and Curtis Perry, a strong rebounder who only had a year under his belt — maybe not the experienced paint help that would have put them over the top against the Lakers or Knicks.

    And why I wonder were the Bucks rearranging their great shooting championship team with trades to Houston for draft picks?

  5. Kevin

    Others on that team: Flynn Robinson, Greg Smith, Don Smith, Guy Rodgers. Don Smith was traded for Boozer and Lucius, Rodgers retired and Robinson was traded for Oscar. The 70-71 team started out 17-1. They were 65-11, but lost 5 out of 6 resting for the playoffs. All five starters finished in the top ten FG% and the team shot over 50% for the year. Their 20 game record winning streak was broken by LA the next year, so that is also forgotten.

  6. J.D. Mo. Post author

    That is forgotten, isn’t it? Before my time, and before the Big O, Bob Boozer and Lucius Allen — and right before the Bucks were switched to the West for a decade, 1971-80. Kareem wasn’t Kareem yet in 1970, Bobby Dandridge … Jonny Mac — a very young team.

    First playoffs back in the East, 1981, Dr. J and the Bucks old Nuggets nemesis, Bobby Jones, were waiting for them in Philly. …

  7. Kevin

    Forgotton in the archives is the Bucks thrashing the Sixers in the 1970 playoffs. I didn’t start watching NBA regularly until the 1972 series with LA. We just all expected the Bucks to win and they did. Missed a lot of good games.

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