Chris Ford knows exactly what he wants for the rest of the season.
Ford, promoted when the Sixers fired first-year coach Randy Ayers last week, made a successful debut Wednesday when Philadelphia beat the Washington Wizards 113-88.
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” Ford said of the Sixers’ remaining 29 games. “Whatever win total that will take is what we have to go after.”
Asked his specific goal, Ford replied, ”29-0.”
Despite their disappointing first half of the season, the Sixers are just a half-game behind the Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We set a goal to go 22-7,” said Sixers guard Allen Iverson, the NBA’s leading scorer. “We might accomplish it or we might not. But a goal like that can only help us do better.”
Iverson scored 25 points against the Wizards, while Glenn Robinson and John Salmons added 15 apiece. The Sixers, who had lost eight of their last 10 under Ayers, jumped out to an early lead and played with much more energy than they had displayed in recent games.
“I felt a sense of urgency,” said Iverson, who started for the East in Sunday’s All-Star game and had 11 assists. “I felt anxious about coming out and getting (Ford) his first win.”
As Ford tries to get the Sixers back into the playoff picture, the Nuggets also have their sights set on the postseason. Denver is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for sixth in the Western Conference.
Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team was focused on entering the All-Star break on a positive note.
“We’ve talked about it for two straight days that the All-Star game does not start until after the Portland game,” Bzdelik said. “Every year about this time there are some strange scores because guys have their bags packed and are ready to go prior to the game they’re supposed to play.”
Lenard continued his hot streak Saturday in Los Angeles, winning the 3-point shooting contest during All-Star weekend.
Starting center Marcus Camby, who has missed two straight games with a hamstring injury, expects to play against the Sixers.