With an outside shot at hosting a first-round playoff series, the Philadelphia 76ers have little room for error in the final two weeks of the regular season.
If they earn that coveted fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, though, they’ll have to do it without one of their key players.
After learning second-year forward Thaddeus Young could be sidelined for up to three weeks, Philadelphia looks to maintain its push toward the postseason on Thursday night when it goes for its first season sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in four seasons.
The 76ers (38-35), winners of five of six at the Wachovia Center, are coming off Tuesday’s 98-85 win over Atlanta, which is four games ahead of Philadelphia for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The 76ers snapped a two-game skid with the victory, but lost Young when he suffered a sprained right ankle and bone bruise in the final minutes of the first quarter.
“At this time of the season, we can’t afford injuries,” said Philadelphia interim coach Tony DiLeo, whose team is in a virtual tie with Miami for the fifth seed. “Hopefully, Thad will get back soon.”
Young averaged 23.6 points in his previous seven games.
“He’s been playing good ball for us,” teammate Andre Miller said. “Other guys have to keep stepping up.”
The veteran point guard has done his part in two victories over Milwaukee this season, averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Miller had 28 points, nine boards and six assists in Philadelphia’s last game versus the Bucks - a 110-105 win in Milwaukee on Jan. 7.
Louis Williams, scoring a career-best 12.2 points per game, has nine or fewer in three of his last five contests. In in two matchups against the Bucks in 2008-09, though, he’s averaging 18.5 points off the bench including a team-high 25 in Philadelphia’s 93-88 home win on Dec. 17.
Marreese Speights had 12 points as a reserve in that victory. The rookie forward will likely get more playing time with Young out.
“Any time my name is called, I’m ready to go in,” said Speights, who scored 16 on Tuesday.
While Philadelphia is looking to inch closer to the fourth seed, Milwaukee is just trying to secure its first playoff berth in three seasons. But its 104-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday wasn’t a step toward that goal.
The Bucks (32-44), who have dropped six of seven and are 11th in the East, trail Chicago by four games for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“Really the whole second half, they turned up their level of play a little bit,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “We didn’t come out poorly or anything like that, we just weren’t quite as sharp.”
Ramon Sessions was. The second-year guard recorded his first career triple-double with 16 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
“I wish we could have gotten the win,” said Sessions, who left the game momentarily in the fourth quarter after suffering a shoulder stinger. “But that’s something I dreamt about night in and night out.”
Sessions scored seven points off the bench in each of the two meetings with the 76ers this season.
Richard Jefferson hit four 3-pointers and scored 29 on Wednesday. He is averaging 30.0 points and making 66.7 percent (10-of-15) of his shots from beyond the arc in his last three games.
Philadelphia has won four in a row over Milwaukee since an 87-83 home loss on Jan. 8, 2008.