In the course of this young season, the 76ers have experienced a miraculous, come-from-behind victory over Portland, a brutal loss in Washington, a strong if insufficient home performance against Boston, back-to-back victories over depleted New York, a get-even victory over Houston and a disappointing home loss to Sacramento.

But you could make a case for Saturday night's 92-86 victory in Cleveland easily being the most significant performance.

The Sixers, now 10-14 with five victories in their last six games going into Wednesday night's game in Indianapolis, have shown their resilience before. This time, they climbed to 5-2 since Eddie Stefanski was announced as the president/general manager successor to Billy King, refusing to allow any negative carryover from Friday's 109-99 loss that gave the Kings their first road victory.

"I've seen the coaching staff and the players committed to winning," Stefanski said yesterday, applauding coach Maurice Cheeks' willingness to "change up some things."

Those things have included using a faster pace, pushing the ball whenever possible without giving up the necessary defensive principles. At the same time, Cheeks has expanded his substitution rotation, offering situational experience to rookies Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith and more responsibility to third-year guard Lou Williams.

"I give all the credit to Mo, his staff and the players for the type of ball they're playing," Stefanski said. "I love this style. As a fan, you've got to love it. I also appreciate that the older players have really embraced the young kids, tried to help them."

Stefanski emphasized that he has made no decisions, including the status of Cheeks, who is in the final season of his contract. But he described the victory over the Cavaliers as "making strides."

"To beat Cleveland in Cleveland after losing at home the night before says volumes about grit," he said.

They had left the lane wide-open against the Kings, allowing a flood of layups, dunks and tap-ins.

"We felt like we played like little girls in the last game," Reggie Evans told reporters. "We had to bounce back. It was a good thing that we had a game the next day, and we didn't have to wait a week or 2 or 3 days later. At the end of the day, we just played like little females [against the Kings]."

Evans has been playing since Nov. 28 with a sprained right rotator cuff that has limited his ability to absorb a blow and reach for the ball with his right arm. That has been a factor in his shooting 8-for-21 from the foul line in the last six games, but he contributed 14 rebounds against the Cavaliers despite going 1-for-8 from the floor. Taking some time off has not been an issue.

"I've never considered that, and neither would he," Cheeks said last week. "It's never even been a topic of conversation."

With Samuel Dalembert sweeping a season-high 19 rebounds, the Sixers controlled the glass, 45-39; Evans and Dalembert combined for 12 of their team's 14 offensive rebounds. Dalembert has accounted for 52 rebounds and 16 blocks in the last four games, and has had at least 10 rebounds in six of the last 10.

The Sixers limited LeBron James (21 points, six rebounds, six assists) to a mere five points in the second half, three in the fourth quarter. The defending Eastern Conference champions managed only two field goals in the final 8 minutes, and just four points in the paint in the second half.

That defense helped the Sixers create a season-high 35 fastbreak points, with Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala each scoring 20 points.

The Sixers' defense also allowed them to win despite shooting 12-for-40 in the second half.

Six shots

Rookie forward Herbert Hill, rehabbing from knee surgery, is getting closer to participating in a full practice, possibly as soon as this week. Hill, a second-round draft choice from Providence, has been playing in three-on-three and four-on-four halfcourt scrimmages. "He's getting there," Maurice Cheeks said. "We haven't had a whole lot of time to go up and down the court, to see where he is in those areas. You can tell a little more when you're going up and down and banging a little bit" . . . The Sixers have expressed no interest in forward Ruben Patterson, waived by the Los Angeles Clippers. *