MILWAUKEE -- What only a week ago was supposed to be a critical game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night was instead a rather meaningless one.
With the 76ers having already nudged out the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, neither team had much at stake in the Bradley Center.
But despite using patched-up starting lineups, both teams played a surprisingly competitive and entertaining game.
After trailing by five points at halftime, the 76ers rallied in the second half for a 90-85 victory before a sparse crowd of 13,489 at the Bradley Center.
76ers coach Doug Collins, who used the occasion to rest several of his key players before the start of the playoffs, said he was delighted with the victory.
“I was in rare form tonight," Collins said, laughing outside the team‘s locker room after the game. “At halftime, I didn’t say a word. Nothing. This was a good win for us. I think any time you win, no matter the circumstances, it’s good for your locker room."
The 76ers rode the coattails of guards Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks. Turner finished with a game-high 29 points and 13 rebounds and Meeks totaled 27 points.
Turner scored a team-leading 15 points in the first half to keep the 76ers within striking distance of the Bucks at 50-45.
Turner also hit a tough, clutch jumper to give the 76ers an 86-81 lead with 3:10 left.
“You give Evan those kinds of minutes and he’ll put up those kind of minutes," Collins said of Turner, who played 41 minutes. “I’ll tell you, he’ll get a lot of minutes in the playoffs."
Meeks, who began his pro career with the Bucks, scored 13 points in the third quarter when the 76ers outscored the Bucks 26-13 to take a 71-63 lead heading into the final period.
Meeks also came up big in the fourth quarter. He connected on a key 3-pointer with 8:29 remaining in the game, giving the 76ers a 76-60 lead. Meeks also made a pair of free throws with 6:57 to go in the game.
The Bucks, who are headed to the NBA Lottery for the third time in the last four seasons, also used a patched-up starting lineup that had only one regular starter in it: point guard Brandon Jennings.
Seldom-used rookies Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer got rare starting calls and responded admirably. The 19-year-old Harris -- the second-youngest player in the NBA -- flashed signs of his potential throughout the game, especially in the first half.
That’s when the 6-foot-9 Harris scored a team-leading 11 of his 15 points. Harris also grabbed a six of his team-high 13 rebounds in the first half.
“His future is bright," Jennings said of Harris. “He’s a big body and he can really get up and down the floor. I told Tobias this is a big summer for him. I’m excited to see his development."
Leuer, a second-round pick, finished with eight points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
Besides Harris and Leuer, the Bucks got a team-high 19 points from Jennings. Reserves Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders contributed 12 points apiece.
The Bucks got a strong showing out of center Ekpe Udoh in the first half when he scored eight points. But Udoh experienced soreness in his right knee and only played a minute in the second half.
While Jennings was the only regular starter on the court at tip-off for the Bucks, the 76ers were without two of their regular starters, forwards Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala.
The “B’’ teams still acquitted themselves well early. The game was tied at 22-22 before the Bucks created some separation by moving to 29-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Turner carried the scoring load for 76ers in the opening period with 10 points. Center Ekpe Udoh had eight points for the Bucks in the first quarter.
The Bucks continued to expand on their lead in the second quarter. Dunleavy’s jumper gave the Bucks a 39-29 advantage with 8:02 before halftime.
The Bucks went to the locker room in front, 50-45. Harris totaled 11 points in the first half, with Dunleavy contributing 10.
“Just because we’re not going to be in the playoffs doesn’t mean we still don’t want to win," Sanders said. “We’re NBA players; we’re grown men. We’re going to compete to the end."
Turner was the only Philadelphia player to score in double figures by halftime. He totaled 15 points.
Collins said he was impressed by how his team bounced back in the second half.
“We have a competitiveness about ourselves," Colllins said. “And I like that."
NOTES: Bucks general manager John Hammond and Bucks coach Scott Skiles refused to comment on a report that Skiles had requested to buy out the final year of his contract. Skiles is under contract for approximately $5 million next season. ... Three of the 76ers’ top players -- Brand, Iguodala and Thaddeus Young -- didn’t accompany the team to Milwaukee in order to rest up for the playoffs. Lou Williams, the 76ers’ leading scorer and Sixth Man of the Year candidate, was with the team but didn’t play. … Young has been shooting the ball exceptionally well lately, having connected on 31-of-46 field goals in the last five games -- a white-hot 67 percent. … The Bucks started two rookies, Harris and Leuer. … The Bucks finished the season with just two sellouts at the Bradley Center and entered Wednesday’s home game with an average attendance of 14,757, the lowest in franchise history. … Sanders returned to action after serving a two-game suspension for his involvement in an altercation during last Thursday’s game in Indianapolis. … Jennings is the only Buck to have played in all 65 games this season. … While the dates, times and sites of the playoffs have yet to be determined, Collins said he expects his team to open the playoffs Saturday afternoon against the Bulls in Chicago. … Collins on the truncated 66-game season: “It’s been a tough year, it really has."
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