The 76ers are finally winning games - when it's too late to do them any good.
A week ago, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention. They then won their next two games, defeating two playoff-bound teams: the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.
Tonight at the Wachovia Center, the Sixers play another playoff team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are led by forward Kevin Durant. Durant, a candidate for league MVP, is averaging 29.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
The Thunder are 44-28.
Yesterday, the Sixers practiced at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"We understand we didn't have a great season," said power forward Elton Brand of this recent burst. "We understand that talent-wise, we feel like we can play with any team. We just haven't gotten the grades we should have."
The Sixers enter tonight's game with a record of 26-47.
Coach Eddie Jordan said his team scrimmaged in practice yesterday for the first time in weeks. It had been that long because of the team's packed schedule. Jordan called the practice "spirited."
"We come with a fresh attitude everyday," Jordan said.
The Sixers haven't played a game since Friday, a three-day layoff rare for this late in the NBA season. Last week, the Sixers beat the Bucks by 15 points, the Hawks by seven points.
"I know it's going to sound silly, but the last two games, . . . I actually see us loose and have confidence," said center Samuel Dalembert. "People from outside might say we have nothing to work for, but personally I think we have something to work for. We have to work for ourselves."
Brand said it's difficult playing teams that are preparing for the playoffs, while the Sixers know they're just as talented but are instead preparing for the off-season.
"We approach these games, we feel like we can go and win the games," Dalembert said. "I wish it would have started earlier, but, hey, that's what's going on."
Benched. On Friday night, Dalembert was late to the arena. As punishment, Jordan started Marreese Speights in place of Dalembert.
"It was a crazy thing: I was sitting in traffic, and I was shaking my head saying, 'Oh man, I'm in trouble,' " Dalembert said. "But, I have no problem with [Jordan]. It's nothing personal. We won the game. . . . That's what it is, and we move on."
Lou's back. Guard Lou Williams, who hasn't played since March 20 because of a lower back injury, practiced yesterday.
"He did some good things, and he's ready to go," Jordan said of Williams.
Officially, Williams is listed as a game-time decision for tonight's game.
Injuries. Swingman Andre Iguodala did not practice yesterday but is expected to play tonight. Iguodala has been battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot. . . . Forward Thaddeus Young, who fractured his right thumb on March 15, did not practice and will not play tonight.