The Philadelphia 76ers have defeated some of the best teams in the NBA during their recent surge. They might not have to work as hard for a win Monday when they visit the struggling Los Angeles Clippers.
The 76ers (27-33) have risen from the depths of the Eastern Conference to put themselves in the thick of the playoff picture by going 9-3 since Feb. 5. That stretch includes an 84-76 win over Dallas, a 101-89 victory over Orlando and Saturday’s 119-114 win at Phoenix.
Philadelphia shot 56.7 percent from the field in its latest victory, thanks in part to 30 fast-break points and 52 points in the paint.
“To come in and play the way we played tonight is pretty big for us,” said coach Maurice Cheeks, whose team is averaging 24.5 fast-break points over this 12-game stretch.
“We’re trying to push the tempo. We try to rebound the basketball and get into the open court and that’s one of the things we tried to do was get into the open court - every time they missed a shot, trying to push the ball up the floor and get some easy baskets.”
Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller have keyed Philadelphia’s recent success. Iguodala was 15-for-23 from the field and had 32 points against the Suns. He’s shooting 49.1 percent in the Sixers’ last nine wins.
Miller had 25 points and 12 assists Saturday, and is averaging 19.1 points, 8.5 assists and 52.0 percent shooting since Feb. 5.
“We need those two guys to play the way they played tonight in order for us to have a chance to win,” Cheeks said.
Cheeks’ club, a season-high 12 games under .500 before its resurgence, is looking to pull within five games of .500 for the first time since it was 14-19 on Jan. 4.
The Sixers will try to do so by taking advantage of the reeling Clippers (19-38), who have dropped five straight to fall further out of contention in the West.
Los Angeles is shooting 39.2 percent from the field and getting outscored by an average of 16.8 points during its skid. The Clippers shot 34.8 percent in a 103-73 loss to Detroit on Saturday.
One positive for the Clippers in the defeat was the return of center Chris Kaman, who missed four games because of a sore lower back. He had 13 points and 14 rebounds in 33 minutes, although he shot 5-for-17 from the field.
“It’s good to see Chris back, but he was rusty,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He did his job on the boards, but he had a hard time finishing around the basket.”
The Sixers held Kaman to a season-low four points on 2-for-10 shooting in the teams’ first meeting Feb. 9. Five Philadelphia players reached double figures in scoring in that 101-80 victory, including both Iguodala and Miller, who combined for 32 points, nine rebounds and 16 assists.
The 76ers are going for their first season series sweep of the Clippers since 2002-03.