The Memphis Grizzlies have essentially given up on making the playoffs after trading Pau Gasol. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, are suddenly in the postseason hunt partly because they dealt Allen Iverson last season.
Getting steady play from point guard Andre Miller, the Sixers look to sweep a five-game homestand as they face the Grizzlies on Wednesday night in the teams’ final game before the All-Star break.
A win over Memphis (14-37), which is trying to find an identity after dealing Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers, would give Philadelphia (22-30) five straight wins for the first time since a seven-game run from last Feb. 26-March 10. The 76ers are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Atlanta and New Jersey.
Philadelphia center Samuel Dalembert said there was “no doubt” the Sixers should make the playoffs. Coach Maurice Cheeks, meanwhile, has openly talked about his team making a run over the next two months to get Philadelphia back in the postseason for the first time in three years.
“If you put a few things together,” Miller said, “it’s not that hard to get in the playoffs in the East.”
Miller is perhaps the biggest reason why the Sixers feel so good about their chances. Miller, acquired from Denver last season as part of the trade in which Philadelphia gave up its franchise star in Iverson, has done an outstanding job of orchestrating the team’s offense.
He isn’t nearly as flashy as Iverson, but Miller always seems to make the right play. Miller is averaging a career-best 16.7 points and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 2.5-to-1.
“If you’re not careful, you can overlook him,” Cheeks said. “But the things that he does are so vital, so important to our team. All the things he does, they’re winning things.”
Miller had 21 points, seven assists and three steals in the Sixers’ latest win, 84-76 over Western Conference power Dallas on Monday night, and finished with 29 points in a 99-97 win over the Grizzlies on Dec. 22.
Gasol had 31 points and 13 rebound for Memphis in that game. The Grizzlies have had a tough time trying to make up for the departure of Gasol, who was the franchise’s top player since acquiring his rights in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks in 2001.
On Tuesday night, however, Memphis beat Sacramento 107-94 for its first win in five games since trading Gasol on Feb. 1.
Hakim Warrick set season highs with 24 points and 13 rebounds to help snap a six-game losing streak for the Grizzlies, who will be leaning more on the third-year forward with Gasol gone. Warrick averaged 9.4 points in the team’s previous five games, and didn’t score more than 14 in any of those contests.
“I think everyone on this team has to go in and fill (Gasol’s) role,” said Warrick, who made just his second start this season. “No one guy is going to do it, so, as a team, I think everyone’s really elevated their game to another level.”
Rudy Gay, averaging 19.9 points, added 21 versus the Kings. The second-year swingman is averaging 19.0 points in three career games against Philadelphia.