Nets-76ers Preview

The Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers are eager to continue taking advantage of a homestand that begins against some of the NBA's worst teams.

They'll try to improve to 9-1 at home Wednesday night by defeating the New Jersey Nets for the ninth straight time.

Philadelphia (12-5) began this seven-game homestand with Monday's 103-83 win over league-worst Washington. The next three opponents for the 76ers are New Jersey (5-13), Charlotte and Detroit.

Coach Doug Collins challenged veterans Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala to prepare the team for this stretch of games.

"You have to call on your veteran guys and I did," Collins said. "I talked to the guys about how important it is for you guys to come out and set the tone (with) what we have to do.

"We have a seven-game homestand here and this is going to be so important to where we're heading. And now we've got Jersey on Wednesday."

Brand shook off a stomach virus for 17 points and nine rebounds Monday while Jrue Holiday also scored 17 for a 76ers team that built a 30-point halftime lead despite playing without starting center Spencer Hawes (left Achilles' strain) and forward Nikola Vucevic (quadriceps strain).

"It's a lot of fun playing with these guys," Brand said. "It's a fun team to play on."

Philadelphia's eight-game win streak over New Jersey is the longest by either team in this series. Brand, Holiday and Louis Williams all averaged at least 14.0 points while shooting 51.5 percent or better in last season's four-game sweep.

All of those games came with the Nets having Brook Lopez available, but Deron Williams played in only one of those matchups. Lopez is currently out with a right foot injury, while Williams is leading the Nets after being acquired Feb. 23.

The Nets had two other starters out Monday in a 110-95 loss at Chicago in their third game in as many days. Damion James has missed the last 11 contests due to a foot injury, and New Jersey got a surprise when rookie MarShon Brooks was scratched before tip-off with a sore left Achilles' tendon.

Coach Avery Johnson was forced into using his 10th different lineup, with Anthony Morrow scoring 15 points in Brooks' place.

"Just when we get excited about having the same lineup, a guy goes out 20 minutes before the game," Johnson said. "It's just something that we're dealing with. It's something that I have to manage."

The Nets are averaging just 91.8 points, and have been particularly poor in getting off to slow starts by averaging 20.1 in the first quarter.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, is brimming with confidence after matching a season high with 30 assists Monday. Iguodala handed out a season-best 11 and three other Sixers had at least four.

"I'm all about connecting," Collins said. "I think connecting plays are what really makes a team special."

The 76ers are passing the ball well while averaging a league-low 11.6 turnovers thanks to quality ballhandling from the likes of Iguodala, Williams and Evan Turner.

"We're trying to win every game and take advantage of everything and take advantage of that home court," Turner said.

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