Bucks getting healthier, hope to end slide in Philly

The Philadelphia 76ers are enduring a season-worst four-game
losing streak and are unsure of the status of one of their starters.

The Milwaukee Bucks believe they are getting healthier as
they try to improve their problems scoring and rebounding.

One of these teams will end its slide Friday night when the
76ers host a Bucks team that has dropped six straight.

Philadelphia (5-8) fell 108-98 at home to Toronto on
Wednesday as it played without Thaddeus Young, out for personal reasons. There
is no word on a possible return for Young, fourth on the team in scoring at
14.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 6.5 per contest.

“When you don’t have Thaddeus, do you go big ball, do
you go small ball?” coach Brett Brown said. “When you play that type
of judgment game, it gets harder to manage those periods.”

Milwaukee (2-8) is on its longest skid since dropping its
final eight games in 2007-08.

There is room for optimism since some key players are back
for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova missed six games due to an ankle injury and Caron
Butler sat out two with a shoulder problem, but both returned in Wednesday’s
91-82 home defeat to Portland.

“As we get guys back, we’re just going to have to
incorporate them and get them used to playing particularly down the stretch,
particularly Ersan – a guy that can stretch out to 3 and a guy that can make
shots,” coach Larry Drew said.

Drew also gave point guard Luke Ridnour his first start in
his third game after missing the first seven with back problems. The Bucks are
short-handed at that position with Brandon Knight out with a hamstring injury.

“Our margin of error is very small,” Drew said.
“We’re trying to dig ourselves out of a hole and the only way to do that
is to play every possession like it’s going to be the last possession.”

Milwaukee is last in the league in rebound margin at
minus-5.7 and is averaging 89.4 points for the NBA’s third-worst mark, including
79.3 over the past three games. The Bucks will look to get untracked
offensively against a Philadelphia club allowing a league-high 109.8 points per

Both teams have concerns about their top scorers.

Milwaukee’s O.J. Mayo left Wednesday with a sprained left
ankle, although he said he is OK. Philadelphia’s Evan Turner has been held
below 14 points in two of his past three games after averaging 23.4 through the
first 10.

The Sixers welcomed Wednesday’s return of Michael
Carter-Williams, who missed four games with a bruised foot. The rookie scored
10 points on 2-of-10 shooting after averaging 17.4 in his first eight.

“I thought Michael struggled tonight as we guessed he
may,” Brown said. “I think his rhythm was a little off, I think his
fitness was evident where he hadn’t played basketball at that level for a

The Bucks took three of four meetings from the Sixers last
season, but their two top scorers in that series – Monta Ellis and Brandon
Jennings – are no longer with the club. The same is true for Philadelphia’s top
scorer, Jrue Holiday.