Good morning, Sixers fans. With seven games to go, the team (44-31) is in first place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

The Sixers’ remaining schedule is the easiest in the NBA, according to Tankathon. Entering Tuesday, the Sixers’ seven games were against teams with a combined .377 winning percentage. And the team is rounding into form. One player who has stepped up his game lately is shooting guard Seth Curry.

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Curry has been hot from long distance

Curry has had injuries, but lately he has been on a roll. He has played seven consecutive games since missing the Sixers’ 116-113 home loss to Phoenix on April 21, and is averaging 14.6 points and shooting 62.9% from three-point range in that stretch. Curry said strengthening his legs has been the key.

“I have been working hard off the court, just trying to get some cardio, getting my legs back,” Curry said after scoring 20 points in Monday’s 106-94 win at Chicago. “I’ve been just moving a little bit better without the ball, and my legs have been getting stronger. ... It is a matter of me creating good shots, and if I create good shots, I will make a good percentage.”

This season, Curry has missed 13 games. He has tested positive for COVID-19 and also missed time with ankle soreness and hip-flexor tightness.

“Just having so many setbacks personally, COVID and a couple of injuries, missed some time, and all the games so close together, it’s just hard to get in shape really all year,” Curry said. “Since I missed those two weeks early in the season, I really haven’t been in good shape.”

He was referring to a seven-game stretch from Jan. 7 through Jan. 20 when he missed seven straight games, the first with an ankle injury and the next six after testing positive for COVID-19.

“The blowout games we had where we didn’t play in the fourth quarter, I was able to get some good cardio after that, and so I think that has been helping me out the past few games,” Curry said.

During a recent five-game stretch, which included two losses in Milwaukee and home wins over Oklahoma City and Atlanta (twice), Curry never played in the fourth quarter and averaged only 24.8 minutes.

So he felt fresher in the last two games, Sunday’s 113-111 overtime win in San Antonio and Monday’s victory in Chicago, and his minutes and scoring increased, Curry averaged 21 points and 35.3 minutes the past two games. He hit 9 of 11 three-pointers (81.8%), showing that his legs and his shot are feeling much better.

Starting five

Keith Pompey writes that Joel Embiid wants his teammates involved more in the offense as they fine-tune for the playoffs.

The Sixers have moved up to the No. 2 spot in The Inquirer’s NBA power rankings.

Finishing at the rim has been among the main reasons for Tobias Harris’ success this season.

In his Sixers notes, Pompey writes that Embiid and Ben Simmons’ rapport has been a pleasant surprise for coach Doc Rivers.

Pompey writes that the Sixers aren’t good enough to deviate from their ball-movement script.

Rough year for the Rockets

It doesn’t take long for fortunes to change for an NBA team. Just look at the Sixers’ opponent on Wednesday, the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets (16-49) made the playoffs eight consecutive years, the longest active streak entering this season. Not surprisingly, Houston has already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this year.

It was expected that the starting backcourt would be Russell Westbrook and James Hardin, but Westbrook was dealt before the season to Washington and Harden was traded Jan. 13 to Brooklyn.

The Rockets acquired former Sixer Christian Wood in an offseason sign-and-trade, and he has played well (21.0 ppg., 9.6 rpg.) but has missed 24 games because of injury.

Second-year guard Kevin Porter Jr., who was acquired from Cleveland, where he was a first-round draft pick in 2019, has averaged 16.6 points in 25 games, and he scored 50 points in last week’s 143-136 upset win over visiting Milwaukee.

The Rockets went through a 20-game losing streak earlier this year, the first 17 without Wood, who was sidelined at the time with an ankle injury. More recently, Houston is 2-12 in its last 14 games.

The Rockets entered Tuesday 27th in offensive rating, averaging 106.2 points per 100 possessions, according to stats. Houston was 26th in defense rating, allowing 113.3 points per 100 possessions.

This was not the team that first-year coach Stephen Silas envisioned, and now the Rockets have a long way back to respectability.

Important dates

Tonight: Sixers at Houston Rockets, 8 p.m., Toyota Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Friday: New Orleans Pelicans at Sixers, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus

Saturday: Detroit Pistons at Sixers, 8 p.m. Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus

Tuesday: Sixers at Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse, NBC Sports Philadelphia

May 13: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., American Airlines Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Passing the rock

Question: In the playoffs, will Doc change his pick and roll defense when Embiid’s man sets a ball screen? Embiid does nothing but back up and play in the lane. No hedge, no trap, no switch. Meanwhile the player guarding the ball trails and goes over the top of the screen. Steph Curry had a field day vs the Sixers in the pick and roll action. — Ron Powell via Facebook

Answer: Thanks for the question, Ron. You can tell you are a coach and a highly successful one. Doc Rivers has talked about this, and I don’t think he will change his coverage. He says he doesn’t want Embiid far from the basket. Plus with all Embiid has to do on offense, chasing guards around the court isn’t something that I think we will see from him.

You make a good point, though. Even somebody like Curry has to launch it a little higher to shoot over Embiid, but I think the defensive philosophy will stay the same, with Embiid backing up and guarding the basket.

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