The Other Side: Philadelphia 76ers
For a great roller coaster ride, folks in Philadelphia no longer have to make the hour-long drive to hop on Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. They just need to follow the Philadelphia 76ers this season. At 27-28, it would be easy to say that the 76ers are struggling with consistency; except they have been consistently up-and-down all season.
Philadelphia has gone on four winning streaks of least three games and five losing streaks of at least three games. Every time the 76ers show some promise, such as when they won a season-high seven consecutive games in January, they have a let down, such as the current season-high-tying, four-game losing streak they are currently riding. The 76ers are coming off an improbable, disheartening loss in New Jersey in which Devin Harris gave the Nets a 98-96 win when he caught a basketball, advanced it almost 30 feet, lost it, and made a half-court buzzer-beater -- all in 1.8 seconds.
The 76ers have consistently been successful against the Washington Wizards this season, winning the first three meetings between the two teams. They snapped a three-game losing streak with a win against Washington in Philadelphia on Dec. 13 and beat them six days later in Washington. Philadelphia moved above .500 for brief moment with a 104-94 victory over the Wizards on Jan. 30. The 76ers are looking for their first season sweep of Washington since 2002-03.
Here's what else you need to know about the Sixers before they play the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:
1. The 76ers Are Still Smarting Over New Jersey Loss
Referee Violet Palmer initially waved off Devin Harris's halfcourt heave at the end of Philadelphia's 98-96 loss. And it seemed like the right call at the time, since Harris managed to take the ball from inside the 76ers' three-point line, advance it to near half-court, lose it, then catch it half-court and launch a game winner. Andre Iguodala, who defended Harris on the play, still refuses to believe that it happened. But slow motion replays showed that Harris got it off - by, as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Kate Fagan described, "a space thinner than a deck of cards." Philadelphia General Manager Ed Stefanski thought about protesting the call, but it will stand.
The 76ers have been dealing with a lot of close calls of late -- four of their past nine losses have been decided by two or fewer points and have come down to the final seconds. Tony Parker beat them with a baseline rainbow at the buzzer on Jan. 3. Dirk Nowitzki hit a pull-up from the foul line at the buzzer on Jan. 19. Ray Allen hit a corner three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left on Feb. 3. And, finally this:
2. Philadelphia Wants To Run And Shoot ... And Get Stops
With Elton Brand gone for the season with a shoulder injury, interim Coach Tony DiLeo has encouraged his team to run more. The 76ers are one of the best fast break teams in the league, but DiLeo knows that running and gunning doesn't always translate well in the postseason. The 76ers are focusing more on defense, and they rank 10th in the NBA in points allowed (95.6) and 13th in opponents field goal percentage (45.4). Philadelphia is 17-3 when scoring 100 or more points, but it has only topped triple digits three times in the past 15 games.
3. Andre Miller Is Ironman
Andre Miller has the league's longest streak of consecutive games played at 503 and has missed only three games in his 10-year career. His streak appeared in jeopardy when he strained his right calf in a loss to Denver last Wednesday. But not only did Miller play the next game against Miami, he scored a season-high 30 points. He was the first 76er to score 30 or more points since Andre Iguodala on April 4, 2008 -- a span of 59 games, which is the second-longest 30-point drought in franchise history. Miller will become a free agent this summer, but it shouldn't be a surprise that Philadelphia decided not to trade him at the deadline.
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