After having a stranglehold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference for the last five weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers are in position to move up a spot.
The 76ers try to climb into sixth place for the first time in nearly two years when they host the struggling Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.
Philadelphia (31-30) got off to a brutal 3-13 start to the season and owned the East’s worst record on Dec. 3. It then slowly began to work its way up the standings, moving into the top eight in the conference in January.
The 76ers have been in seventh place since Jan. 30, and by going an NBA-best 11-4 since, they’re now one-half game back of New York, which visits fifth-place Atlanta on Sunday night. A win by Philadelphia and a loss by the Knicks can move the Sixers into sixth, which would be the highest they have been this late in a season since earning the East’s sixth seed in the 2009 playoffs.
The Sixers have won five of six with Iguodala posting two triple-doubles in that span, including 22 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds Friday. He hadn’t had one since the 2006-07 season until last month.
“I was happy with the triple-double, but it was more important that we got the win,” Iguodala said.
Elton Brand(notes) scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half and didn’t seem to have any trouble playing with a splint on his right hand. Brand dislocated his right pinky finger last Sunday in a victory at Cleveland and has needed the finger to be popped back into place at least two times over the past few days.
“I feel good,” said Brand, who averages a team-best 15.3 points.
That’s a good sign for Philadelphia, as Brand’s scoring is instrumental to the team’s success. The 76ers have won 11 of 13 when Brand scores at least 15 and are 22-13 for the season, compared to 9-16 when he doesn’t.
One of those rare defeats in a game when he reached his scoring average, however, was a 110-95 loss at Golden State (27-34) on Dec. 27.
Philadelphia had no answer for the Warriors’ torrid shooting from the perimeter, as Golden State made a season-best 15 3-pointers on 23 attempts. Dorell Wright(notes) was 5 of 7 from 3-point range and led the Warriors with 28 points, while Monta Ellis(notes) scored 22 and David Lee(notes) added 21.
Ellis carried Golden State against Boston on Friday, scoring 28 of his 41 points in the second half, but the Warriors fell 107-103 to the East’s top team for their fifth defeat in six games.
“No moral victories, we’re upset we lost,” said Lee, who had 26 points and 12 rebounds. “But if we play this way all the time we’re going to win a lot of the games we have left. We just talked about continuing to plug away.”
The Warriors have lost at three of the first four stops on their season-high seven-game road trip and are 2-7 on the road against the East since Nov. 11.
This could spell trouble, as the Sixers have won 19 of their last 25 home games, including an 8-3 mark against West opponents.