With the 76ers (19-20) looking for their first seven-game win streak in nearly two years, their star power forward is considered “50-50” to be back on the court for Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks.
“We aren’t even thinking about whether we can do it with or without him,” guard Willie Green said.
Brand, who signed a five-year, $80.4 million contract in July, has not played since dislocating his right shoulder in a Dec. 17 home win over Milwaukee. If he does return in Saturday’s game, he will likely be on the floor for a limited time.
“When he does start to play, we’ll monitor his minutes,” 76ers coach Tony DiLeo told the team’s official Web site. “We’re not just going to put him out there and let him play. We’re going to be conservative with his minutes.”
With Brand averaging 15.9 points and grabbing a team-best 9.8 rebounds per game, Philadelphia went 10-13.
To say the 76ers adjusted to playing without Brand is an understatement.
After losing six of its first eight following his injury, Philadelphia has reeled off its longest run of victories since a seven-game win streak from Feb. 26-March 10, 2007. The 76ers can reach the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 24 with a win Saturday.
“We’re playing at a high level right now,” Andre Iguodala said. “We’re just clicking.”
While Thaddeus Young scored a career-high 27 points in Friday’s 109-87 win over visiting San Antonio, it’s Iguodala who has shined in place of Brand.
The team’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game has averaged 23.6 and shot 55.2 percent over the last nine games. He’s also hit 11 of his last 18 3-point attempts.
Making shots from behind the arc has helped fuel Philadelphia’s win streak. The 76ers, who were tied for last in the league in 3-pointers heading into Friday’s game, went 8-of-14 from long range against the Spurs—including buzzer beaters to end the first three quarters—and they have gone 42-of-84 from 3-point range during their six straight wins.
The Knicks (15-23) nearly tied their longest win streak of the season Friday at Washington, but couldn’t hold on to a late lead in a 96-89 loss.
New York, which came in riding consecutive victories, had a six-point advantage with 4:35 remaining, but the Knicks missed nine consecutive shots, allowing the Wizards to reel off 15 straight points.
“It felt like somebody hit me in the stomach,” said New York coach Mike D’Antoni, whose team has dropped 11 of its last 15. “We felt like we had them tonight.”
David Lee was a bright spot in Friday’s game, matching a career high with 21 rebounds and scoring 15 points for his 25th double-double in the last 29 games.
Philadelphia has won 10 of the last 12 meetings with the Knicks, but has lost eight of its last 11 trips to Madison Square Garden.