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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Sixers lost a close game to a top team on Sunday night, in part because they couldn’t execute down the stretch. That scenario has become a theme this season. If the themes of the Sixers season continue tonight, they’ll get a win against the sub .500 Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Sixers (22-16) have had their recent troubles against the good teams, they’ve continued to dominate the mediocre ones. They’re 2-2 since returning from the All-Star break, with the two losses being to the top teams in each conference, the Bulls and the Thunder. The two wins have come by large margins over bottom-dwellers, the Warriors and the Pistons. The Bucks, at 14-23, fit into the second category.

The Bucks come into the game losers of three in a row, and eight of their last ten. They’re without Stephen Jackson, who has missed the last six games due to a sore hamstring. It’s believed that the Bucks are attempting to trade Jackson, and are keeping him out of action to avoid injury. They’re also without center Andrew Bogut, who broke his ankle in January.

The lone threat offensively for the Bucks is point-guard Brandon Jennings, scoring over 18 points per game. Jennings has played well this season, but is still shooting a low percentage (40.4%).

The Sixers have defeated the Bucks three out of their last four meetings, including a 94-82 win in January at the Wells Fargo Center. They’ll be on the road, on the second day of back-to-back games, which isn’t typically a winning situation for NBA teams. But with the Celtics and Knicks closer than ever in the Atlantic Division standings, the Sixers don’t have any time to rest. The Sixers have played well in back-to-backs this year, winning seven out of ten times.

An inability to close out tight games against good teams, like Sunday night against the Bulls, has become an unfortunate theme in an otherwise exciting Sixers season. Blame tends to shift from individual players, to coaching, to youth, to a lack of overall talent on the roster. The problem is almost without question a combination of all factors, without an easy fix.

Tonight’s game will start at 8pm and can be heard live on 94WIP.

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