With the playoffs out of the picture, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking for something to salvage a disappointing season. A third straight victory over a playoff contender could help.
The 76ers look to win three in a row for the first time in almost two months while trying to avoid a third straight loss to the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
After consecutive playoff appearances, Philadelphia (26-47) will miss the postseason with its fourth losing record in five seasons. However, the 76ers have played better of late, beating playoff contenders Milwaukee and Atlanta after losing 16 of 20.
“We found a way to close a couple of games out in a row,” said forward Elton Brand(notes), who had 14 points in a 105-98 win over the Hawks on Friday. “We’ve struggled all year doing that. It’s satisfying to do it twice in a row.”
Philadelphia hasn’t won three straight since a season-high five-game winning streak from Jan. 31-Feb. 9. Achieving that feat won’t be easy with the Thunder in town.
Oklahoma City (44-28) needs four wins in its last 10 games to secure the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2004-05, while in Seattle. The Thunder, who’ll play six of the 10 on the road, will likely spend the regular season’s final two weeks jockeying for position in the competitive Western Conference.
Though the Thunder won 117-106 at home over the 76ers on Dec. 2, the franchise has dropped four in a row at Philadelphia, including a 110-85 defeat in its last visit Nov. 15, 2008.
Durant finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds in the Thunder’s 92-87 home loss to Portland on Sunday. Second in the NBA with 29.6 points per game, Durant took only three shots in the fourth quarter and missed them all as Oklahoma City suffered its fourth loss in seven games.
“He’s an unbelievable scorer,” Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “I think that the big thing is to try to make him work to catch, deny him his touches as much as possible and then try and stay in front of him.”
The 76ers will likely try to do that while hoping to continue their recent offensive surge. Putting up 97.1 points per game this season, Philadelphia is averaging 103.0 and shooting 51.3 percent in its last two contests.
Andre Iguodala(notes) had 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against Atlanta, and rookie point guard Jrue Holiday(notes) posted his second career double-double with 13 and 12 assists while also recording seven steals.
The 17th overall pick in 2009, Holiday is averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 assists on the season, but 14.2 points with 6.0 assists while shooting 49.6 percent in his last 12 games.
“I have a lot of confidence,” said Holiday, who had 15 points in his first game against the Thunder. “I’m feeling comfortable.”
Iguodala had 28 points at Oklahoma City in December.