The Philadelphia 76ers are hoping their first back-to-back victories of the season are a sign they’re ready to turn around their slow start.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, any major improvement may be still be far off.
Philadelphia will return home to try for its third straight win Saturday against the Thunder, who’ve lost six in a row and haven’t yet won a road game this season.
After a surprisingly tough start for a team that was brimming with optimism from the addition Elton Brand in the offseason, the Sixers (4-5) have won both of their last two games on the road.
While they displayed a balanced offense in Wednesday’s 106-96 win at Toronto, they had to come back from a 25-point deficit after the first quarter to earn a 94-92 win over Indiana on Friday. Thaddeus Young had 25 points and 10 rebounds while Andre Miller added 19 points, including the go-ahead basket late in the fourth quarter.
“I told them to keep fighting,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We just hung in there, we didn’t stop.”
Among the Sixers’ difficult early losses was a 95-88 loss to Atlanta in which they blew a 23-point lead.
“It gave us confidence to know, ‘Hey, we can do it to somebody else,’” Brand said.
Against the Pacers, Brand was 4-of-17 from the field while Andre Iguodala went 2-of-12, and Philadelphia shot 37 percent as a team.
Brand is shooting 45 percent this season—more than five percent below his career average—as he adjusts to his new teammates. Iguodala is also off to a tough start, shooting 36 percent and averaging 12.1 points after scoring 19.9 last season.
Still, the Sixers now have an opportunity to build a winning streak, with their next three games against Oklahoma City, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Clippers—a trio of one-win teams.
The lone victory for the Thunder (1-8) came at home against the Timberwolves on Nov. 2, and they’ve lost six straight since. They’re also 0-4 on the road after going 7-34 away from Seattle last season before the team relocated.
A sputtering offense has been the problem for most of the season, as they averaged 88.5 points and shot 40 percent in their first eight games. But even though they finally scored 100 points for the first time this season on Friday night, they lost 116-106 at New York.
Kevin Durant had 23 points for Oklahoma City in his return to the lineup after a one-game absence due to an ankle problem, but the Thunder fell behind 68-44 at halftime and, unlike Philadelphia, couldn’t complete the comeback on the road.
“You’ve got to start off well. Tonight they jumped on top of us early,” Durant said. “In this league, once you are down 30, you can’t come back and win a game tired.”
The last time the teams met, the Sixers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter on March 7 at home against Seattle en route to a 117-83 drubbing of the SuperSonics. Philadelphia has won four straight and six of seven overall against the Thunder franchise.