The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t panicking after dropping into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead, even with one of their starters missing the last two games.
The 76ers (28-22) have led the Atlantic for all but a few days early in the season, but five losses in their last eight games has dropped them into a tie with Boston for the top spot.
However, they are coming off a 103-85 win over Cleveland on Tuesday. Jodie Meeks scored a career-high 31 points, Jrue Holiday added 19 and Philadelphia put together one of its better recent offensive performances after averaging 87.3 points the previous seven games.
“We know we’re resilient, we know what we have to do,” coach Doug Collins said. “We’ve just got to play. That’s all it is. Whether the game is road or home.”
Meeks started in place of the injured Iguodala, who sat out a second straight game with left patella tendinitis. Meeks, who had lost his spot in the starting lineup earlier this month, hit 7 of 10 3-pointers, becoming the second Philadelphia player to reach the 30-point mark this season.
Despite that impressive performance, Meeks could find himself coming off the bench again Friday. Iguodala participated in Thursday’s practice, and according to Collins, will be a game-time decision Friday.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to manage it,” Iguodala said. “These last three days have really helped and I’m hoping to keep it manageable for the rest of the season.”
While Iguodala’s knee problem could be a concern down the stretch, Philadelphia has good reason for remaining calm despite its recent slump. Although 11 of its final 16 games are on the road - including the last five - nine of the 16 will be against teams with losing records. The 76ers are 18-5 against teams below .500.
Still, while they are beating the teams they should and have won all three games against Washington (11-39) by an average of 21.3 points, Collins said this is the time of year teams need to be wary of opponents that have nothing to lose.
“Those teams are playing with house money right now,” he said. “Sometimes they’re the hardest teams to beat.”
While Washington has challenged several potential playoff teams in the last two weeks - including Indiana and Atlanta - it returns home having lost five in a row - four by four points or fewer.
The Wizards fell 93-89 at Indiana on Thursday for their 10th loss in 12 games. Jordan Crawford scored 20 points and Nene added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Washington pulled within two in the final minute, but John Wall, who finished with 13 points and two assists, had a critical turnover, his fifth of the game, with 23 seconds left.
“You have to make simple, simple plays down the stretch,” coach Randy Wittman said. “It might sound trivial or fundamental, but it has to be the easiest play you can make down the stretch, and if it’s not, then you can’t take the chance.”
Philadelphia has won five straight against Washington after losing the previous five meetings.