The Philadelphia 76ers claim they’re not concerned with looking at the out-of-town scoreboard as they jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
All of a sudden, they might have a new concern - their play at home.
The Sixers will try to avoid losing three straight at the Wachovia Center for the first time this season on Wednesday when they host the Detroit Pistons in a possible first-round playoff preview.
Philadelphia (39-38) won 12 of 13 on its home court from Feb. 5-March 26, part of a run where it won 19 of 24 overall to turn itself from an also-ran in the East to a team fighting for home-court advantage in the first round.
The Sixers clinched their first playoff berth in three years on Friday with a 109-104 win at Atlanta, but came home the next night and lost 92-85 to the Hawks. Philadelphia could have pulled within two games of fourth-place Cleveland with a victory.
“The game was flat,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We couldn’t get into the rhythm that we were in before. I think we expended a lot of energy (Friday), realizing where we were and where we were trying to get to.”
Now, the Sixers will enter their game against the Pistons (55-22) in sixth in the East, one game behind Washington for fifth and one ahead of Toronto for seventh place.
“We’re not scoreboard watching,” said guard Louis Williams. “We’ll be fine. We’ll keep working.”
The seventh seed will draw Detroit, which is locked into the East’s second seed, in the first round.
Andre Iguodala has been the Sixers’ best scorer all season, scoring 20.0 points per game, but he’s stepped it up even more lately, averaging 22.2 points and 5.3 assists over his last 13 games.
Iguodala is averaging 18.0 points in three games against the Pistons, but is shooting just 30.0 percent in those contests. Iguodala was just 6-for-22 from the field at Detroit on March 12, but the Sixers won 83-82.
Detroit coach Flip Saunders wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance in that game, calling the Pistons’ performance “terrible.”
“The score isn’t reflective of the way we played - we shouldn’t have only lost this game by one point,” Saunders said.
Saunders didn’t have much to be pleased about in Detroit’s latest game, either. The Pistons, with leading scorer Richard Hamilton (17.7 ppg) resting for the fourth straight game, fell behind 57-34 at halftime on Wednesday to the last-place Knicks.
They eventually mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter but lost 98-94, snapping a five-game winning streak.
With their playoff seed locked down, Saunders chose to concentrate on the late rally rather than the early deficit.
“The group that went in there, they played their butts off in the fourth quarter, they gave us a chance,” Saunders said. “It’s easy when you’re down 25 or 27 to just roll it in. Those guys didn’t, they fought back.”
With Hamilton resting, and regulars like Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace playing limited minutes, rookie Rodney Stuckey has looked impressive. He’s averaging 18.0 points over his last four games.
Detroit has won five straight and six of seven in Philadelphia.