The Philadelphia 76ers had things going their way in the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 13. The Sixers had a 10 point lead after the first quarter and a seven point lead at halftime, leaving them 24 minutes away from closing the gap for a playoff spot. Yet Milwaukee was recharged by interim coach Jim Boylan at halftime, while Philadelphia became flat and suffered a costly 94-92 loss as a result.
According to the Associated Press, Boylan “lit into his team” after the Bucks’ ugly first half. Point guard Brandon Jennings also admitted that they “didn’t have too much energy” until Boylan talked to them during the break. But while Milwaukee regained its energy, Philadelphia lost its own.
The Sixers should have been more than inspired to keep the pressure on, since a win would leave them just two games back of the Bucks for the No. 8 playoff seed in the East. However, Milwaukee made Philadelphia look like the tired team, as it chipped away at the deficit and finally took its first lead with over nine minutes left.
It was the Sixers that had to scramble and rally from a seven-point deficit in the final minutes, which they still almost did. Yet unlike the Bucks, the Sixers didn’t have enough time or inspiration to finish the comeback, as a turnover on the final possession sealed Philadelphia’s fate.
Boylan’s halftime intervention could make an even bigger difference down the line. Not only are the Bucks four games ahead of the Sixers, they have won the tiebreaker against them with a 3-0 record so far this year. If Philadelphia misses the playoffs by one game or by a tiebreaker to Milwaukee, this defeat will ring long and loud as a big reason why.
The Bucks had already been reeling, as they fired coach Scott Skiles last month and have still sunk to .500 under Doylan. Combined with how they came up flat against the Sixers, they should have been ready to lay down and die. Yet Boylan got the Bucks on their feet just in time.
Sixers’ coach Doug Collins will have to do that himself, if he hasn’t tried already. With a 22-29 record and a four-game playoff deficit going into the All-Star break, it is more than past time for Collins to light a fire as well.