Philadelphia is only one game behind the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Over their final four games, however, the Sixers may have to make a push for the conference’s top seed without several important contributors.
That’s what makes Thomas so important.
Todd MacCulloch is out indefinitely with a nerve disorder, Keith Van Horn will miss at least one more game with an injured left foot, and Derrick Coleman strained his left quadriceps in the second quarter of Thursday’s 99-78 win over the Boston Celtics.
Their absence did not make much of a difference on Thursday. Thomas scored 15 points and tied his season high with 20 rebounds as the Sixers routed the Celtics for their fifth straight road win.
“I came out a little bit more aggressive in the second half,” said Thomas, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets in December. “I just tried to go out and rebound, and if the points came, they came.”
The Sixers also got 25 points from Allen Iverson, who will likely be joining coach Larry Brown at the Olympics next summer.
Before the game, a basketball source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the Sixers guard will be asked to join the U.S. team for the 2004 Olympics.
“I didn’t concentrate on it as much because I had a game to play,” he said. “It’s just a great feeling to be able to represent the USA.”
While the Sixers are trying to close in on the East’s top seed, the Knicks will miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
STANDINGS: 76ers - 2nd place, 1 GB, Atlantic Division. Knicks - 6th place, 13 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: 76ers - Iverson, 27.4 ppg; Kenny Thomas, 8.0 rpg; Snow, 6.8 apg. Knicks - Houston, 22.7 ppg; Kurt Thomas, 8.0 rpg; Eisley, 5.3 apg.
SEASON SERIES: 76ers, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 10; Knicks, 114-112. At Philadelphia, the Knicks set a franchise record for 3-pointers in a game but had to survive a late scare to escape with the win. New York made 16 3-pointers, including a crucial one by Charlie Ward with 31 seconds remaining. Sprewell and Houston each had 31 points for the Knicks. Iverson led the Sixers with 30.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: 76ers - 23-16 on the road; Knicks - 23-16 at home.
INJURIES: 76ers - C Coleman (quadriceps); F Sam Clancy (knee); C Samuel Dalembert (knee); C MacCulloch (feet); F Van Horn (foot). Knicks - F Antonio McDyess (knee); G Lavor Postell (knee); F Mark Pope (back); F Al Harrington (ankle).