Oklahoma City (39-23) at Philadelphia (33-30)

By JEFF BARTL, STATS Writer Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EST Wed Mar 9, 2011

If not for a dismal 3-13 start, the Philadelphia 76ers may be competing for home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder hope they can remain in that fortunate position in the West.

Philadelphia looks for its eighth victory in nine games Wednesday night when it hosts Oklahoma City.

The 76ers improved to 30-17 since their rough start, beating Indiana 110-100 on Tuesday. Andre Iguodala(notes) followed up back-to-back triple-doubles with 16 points and 10 assists against the Pacers.

Iguodala has averaged 14.8 points, 8.4 assists and 7.9 rebounds the past eight games for Philadelphia (33-30), which has won three straight and is now just one-half game back of sixth-place New York in the East.

“I don’t know what player out there is going to bring the defense he brings, the unselfishness he brings, and the ability to score that he brings.” forward Elton Brand(notes) said of Iguodala. “He can see the court. If he’s not scoring the ball, he’s seeing other guys, and he’s putting us in easy positions to knock the shots down.”

Philadelphia seems to have come together since its difficult first month, and the 76ers appear poised to carry their recent success into the postseason.

“We’re riding high right now,” said Brand, one of seven 76ers in double figures Tuesday with 12 points. “We’re playing very well. Against the good teams, we’re playing well, even if we lose. We feel like we can beat just about any team.”

Philadelphia will get to test that statement the next two games, facing the Thunder followed by East-leading Boston on Friday.

Oklahoma City won the first meeting 109-103 on Nov. 10 behind 31 points from Kevin Durant(notes) as Iguodala sat out with right Achilles’ tendinitis.

However, the fourth-place Thunder (39-23) have seen their Northwest Division lead shrink to three games as Denver continues its surge.

Oklahoma City had followed up a three-game losing streak with three consecutive victories before falling 107-101 to Memphis on Monday. Russell Westbrook(notes) scored 27 points and had seven assists, but the Thunder committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter and were unable to complete a comeback.

“We made some costly mistakes,” said Durant, who added 23 points . “We always seemed to have it within two or three (points), and we couldn’t get over the hump.”

Monday marked the fifth time in seven games Oklahoma City allowed at least 104 points, with opponents shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range in that span.

“We got down 17 because our defensive effort wasn’t where it needed to be,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We gave them too many easy layups and points around the paint. We got back into it because we made some shots, but we still weren’t playing the defense that it takes to win in this league.”

Durant has averaged 30.0 points in his last three meetings against Philadelphia. The Thunder have won four of the five matchups since relocating to Oklahoma City from Seattle prior to the 2008-09 season.

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Wednesday, Mar 9