The Other Side: Philadelphia 76ers
The first time the Washington Wizards visited Philadelphia, the 76ers were a team in disarray -- although disarray is relative given the misery in D.C. this season. But the Sixers fired Maurice Cheeks on Dec. 13, and his replacement, Tony DiLeo led the team to a commanding 104-89 victory as Elton Brand scored a season-high 27 points.
The next time the Wizards played the 76ers a week later, Philadelphia again seemed to be in trouble because Brand had dislocated his shoulder the previous game against Milwaukee and was going to miss the next month. The 76ers then beat the Wizards at Verizon Center, 109-103, outscoring them 8-2 in the final 2 ½ minutes.
This time around, the Wizards might have a good shot at avoiding the first season sweep in six years against the 76ers because things are looking pretty rosy in Philadelphia right now. The 76ers have won nine of their past 11 games, including a 95-93 win in Houston on Wednesday, to move into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and they are 2-1 since Brand came back from his injury. The 76ers have rediscovered the running style that catapulted them into the playoffs last season.
Since DiLeo took over, Philadelphia is 13-8, averaging 100 points on 49.2 percent shooting and holding opponents to 97.2 points on 44.9 percent shooting. Under Cheeks, the 76ers were 9-14, averaging 93.3 points on 43.4 percent shooting while surrending 95.1 points on 45.5 percent shooting to opponents. Looks like quite an improvement, although 16 of those games under DiLeo were without Brand.
Here's what else you need to know about the Sixers as they host the Wizards tonight at Wachovia Center:
1. Andre Iguodala Is Playing Like an All-Star (Since Dec. 1)
The first month of the season, Andre Iguodala struggled mightily playing second banana to Elton Brand, with Philadelphia's attempts to force-feed Brand leaving him confused about what to do on the floor. He averaged just 13.1 points the first 17 games of the season and appeared to be regressing. But in the past 27 games, Iguodala is averaging 20.6 points. He has scored 20 or more in 13 of the past 18 games, after reaching that figure three times in the first 26. The 76ers have won the past eight games that Iguodala has scored 20 or more. Iguodala thought he should've been considered for the All Star Game. He didn't make it, but based on adjusted plus/minus figures, Iguodala is the second-best player in the NBA.
2. Elton Brand May or May Not Be on the Trading Block
Brand is having the worst season of his career and Philadelphia has a better record without him (9-7) than with him (13-15). He has come off the bench the past three games to regain his rhythm, and scored 14 points against Houston. ESPN's Chad Ford started a minor controversy this week, when he wrote in an online chat that the 76ers are having buyers remorse on the $82-million contract they handed to Elton Brand and have made him available in trade discussions. Ford later mentioned that there is a 20 percent chance that Brand would be dealt at the Feb. 19 deadline -- if Philadelphia can find a taker. But Philadelphia Daily News' Phil Jasner said the 76ers had no trade-related calls involving Brand. Brand said he ignores all the chatter.
3. Samuel Dalembert Is Bouncing Back
Dalembert also languished playing alongside Brand, but he has played some of the most spirited basketball of the season since Brand returned. Dalembert has grabbed at least 10 rebounds the past three games -- his second longest streak of double-digit games this season (four, from Dec. 20-29) -- averaging 14 rebounds per game. He is averaging 2.56 blocks over his past 18 games. Dalember had a stellar performance against Yao Ming on Wednesday, when had 13 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, including a deflection of Tracy McGrady's final shot attempt.
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