DON'T LOOK any further into the 76ers' current play more than what it has been, which is seven wins in nine games.

Forget that the last three opponents they have faced won one of their previous 14 games going into their contest with the Sixers.

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As the Meatloaf song says: "You'll never find your gold on a sandy beach. You'll never drill for oil on a city street. There ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box."

The point is, no matter the competition, coach Doug Collins desperately needed his team to turn things around after a 3-13 start and before they embark on an eight-game road trip, that begins Saturday in Orlando after Friday's home game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though only one of the seven wins came against a team with a winning record at the time (New Orleans), that's not Collins' concern.

The goal is to continue to get better as the season goes on, to improve in all areas of the game, especially the ones that caused losses in games that seemed to be certain wins.

Against the Los Angeles Clippers last night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers exhibited a rarity - they turned a slim second-half deficit into a comfortable win. They committed only five turnovers for the night, tying the floor record. They would have broken it, except for two turnovers in the final minute. They made an adjustment at the half to stop the Clippers' big men - Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan - from getting free sprints to the basket. And they also found a way to solve the Clippers' zone, mostly by getting to the rim and finishing in traffic.

When it was done, they waltzed off the court with a 105-91 victory to improve to 10-15. They played the fourth quarter with a confidence that hasn't been around in quite some time.

Times, they are a-changing.

"Our defense was fantastic in the second half," Collins said about his team's limiting the Clippers (5-21) to 35 points in the final 24 minutes on 11-for-36 shooting (30.5 percent). "That team causes a lot of problems on screen-and-roll D, because, early in the game, we were trying to go under the screen, and Baron Davis was getting where he wanted to get on the floor. Then when we tried to have our big man help a little bit, they just rolled their big to the rim, and they were getting lobs and stuff.

"We made an adjustment at halftime on our screen-roll defense that I thought really changed the game."

What they did, essentially, was take away the inside part, rolling help over when needed, and also took away open outside looks. The defense led to many breakouts and turned a 56-53 halftime deficit into an 87-74 lead going into the fourth quarter.

After the Clippers had taken a three-point lead midway through the third, the Sixers streaked out on a 25-8 clip to end the quarter. During the blitz, Griffin (20 points, 18 rebounds, his 13th straight double-double) drove strong to the basket from the left baseline and appeared as if on his way to a thunderous, highlight slam. But Elton Brand met him about 5 feet from the basket and forcefully ensured that the rookie wouldn't be on "SportsCenter's" Top 10. Griffin crashed to the floor, where he stayed for a few minutes. Brand was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, but, more important, reinforced a "not in our house" tone.

"He gets some pretty good dunks, he's on the highlights every week, every day," Brand said of Griffin. "I just didn't want him to get a dunk to get their team pumped up. I just tried to make a play on the ball. He jumps so high, he just kind of fell awkward. He's a young, very talented player. He's been dominating, so you have to let him know, especially in our place. It's exciting playing new guys like that."

Besides the tough inside play of Brand, who collected 15 points, Spencer Hawes also helped out in the middle, with 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. He is a different player from the one who started the season, offensively and defensively.

"I think rebounding and blocking shots, I'm feeling more and more like myself," Hawes said. "Especially on my second hop, sometimes. I maybe get out of position on the first one, but being able to come back and not quit on the play."

At halftime, facing a tired team that won in New Jersey the night before, Collins pleaded for only 24 minutes of solid basketball. He got it, especially from Andre Iguodala, who finished with 20 points after scoring only four in the first half on three shots. He and Jrue Holiday (team-high 24) sliced through Los Angeles' zone defense without much prevention.

This one was one with a halftime adjustment that led to a dominating third quarter. Sure it happened against a team that has the NBA's worst record, but it is a win.

Don't look for more than that.

Six shots

The Sixers host the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow, and, as of last night, tickets were still available . . . Craig Brackins and Jason Kapono were deactivated . . . Doug Collins gave the team the day off today. *

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