PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The 76ers are on the run.
They run in the open court, run up the points and are running all the way into the playoffs.
Andre Miller hit all the right targets and had a season-high 18 assists, Lou Williams scored 23 points and Philadelphia romped again, this time in a 121-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
“We’re just trying to continue to play the way we’ve been playing,” coach Maurice Cheeks said.
That fast-paced, push the ball for easy baskets style of play helped the Sixers outscore the Bulls 30-2 in fast-break points en route to their 19th victory in their last 24 games.
“These young guys can get up and down, so it makes my job easier just to throw the ball ahead and let them make a play,” Miller said.
Philadelphia—18-30 on Feb. 4 and seemingly out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture—somehow has the fifth seed in its reach. The Sixers (37-35) are two games over .500 for the first time all season, have won 11 of 12 at home and are 11-2 in March to charge up the East standings.
Up ahead, catching the Wizards. The Sixers play at Washington on April 12.
“That’s the consensus in the locker room that we kind of want them to lose,” Williams said. “We’ve got one more game against them so we’ve got to go out and get that game. Right now, we’re focusing on how we’re playing and we’re playing great basketball and we want to continue to do that.”
Miller again led the way, even on a night when he made only two baskets. His 18 assists were only three shy of matching the franchise record held by Cheeks (1982) and Wilt Chamberlain (1968). In the first quarter, Miller fired an overhead pass to a streaking Andre Iguodala in the lane and the swingman finished with a thunderous one-handed dunk.
Thaddeus Young quickly followed with a left-handed layup in transition and the crowd erupted heading into a timeout. It was only late in the first quarter, but the rout was already on and the fans were rocking the Wachovia Center.
The Sixers, who spent most of the season near the bottom of the attendance standings, played in front of their fifth straight crowd of at least 18,000 fans.
Iguodala scored 21 points and Young had 20.
“Any time you have a positive vibe, I think good things are going to happen,” Williams said.
How’s this for good vibrations? The Sixers made only 32 percent of their 3-pointers for the season, yet went 11-for-25 against the Bulls. Williams and Rodney Carney were a combined 9-for-13.
“On different nights, we are capable,” Cheeks said. “But it’s not what we do, it’s not what we are.”
The Sixers keep finding new ways to win and they got this one without much scoring from Miller and Samuel Dalembert. When the Sixers led 48-33 in the second quarter, Dalembert was scoreless and Miller had one free throw. The only blemish came on Iguodala’s performance from the free-throw line, a miserable 3-for-9 effort.
The Sixers went on an 11-0 run to lead 65-49 at the break.
Drew Gooden, who scored a season-high 31 points and matched a season best with 16 rebounds in the Bulls’ 103-94 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night, was held to two points and eight rebounds.
“We were a little bit slow in everything we did,” Bulls coach Jim Boylan said. “It looked like we were stuck in mud.”
The Bulls rallied a bit in the third and cut the deficit to eight points twice, each time on Hinrich’s baskets.
Carney answered with a 3-pointer, Williams hit a 3 and the Sixers romped in the fourth, falling three points shy of matching their season-high point total.
“We just don’t focus all the time, especially at the defensive end,” said Bulls forward Joakim Noah.
The 76ers won the season series for the first time since 2003-04. … The Sixers are assured of their best March since they went 13-3 in 1984. … The Sixers never trailed in a game for the fourth time this season.