The 76ers are talking playoffs.
One day after an inspired overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, and one day before a challenging two-game road swing, the Sixers were craning their necks yesterday, thinking postseason.
"It's a tough goal, but I think it's realistic," said power forward Elton Brand. "The way we've been playing, at times, absolutely. . . . It's kind of exciting, but we'd rather not be in this position. We'd rather have a seed and be comfortable right now. But we're going to make it exciting, we're going to get at it and give it our best shot."
The Sixers are 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-31 record.
The Sixers practiced yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, once again without Allen Iverson. Afterward, they flew to New Orleans, also without Iverson, where tonight they will play the Hornets.
Iverson, missing since Tuesday because one of his children is ill, might not join the team for tonight's game.
"We still don't know," said coach Eddie Jordan about Iverson's status. "It's to be determined. . . . I text him and things seem to be going in the right direction with his family. We'll see when we get to New Orleans how things are going."
The Hornets will be without all-star point guard Chris Paul, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Tomorrow night, the Sixers will play the Rockets in Houston. The Rockets entered last night in ninth place in the Western Conference playoff race; the Hornets were 11th.
If the Sixers win tonight, it would mark the first time this season they have won three games in a row.
"I didn't even realize that, which is really not us," said center Samuel Dalembert. "Sometimes you get over that ramp and before you know it, it might be five games, six games in a row."
On Wednesday night, the Sixers defeated the Bulls in overtime, 106-103. At the moment, Chicago (23-24) holds the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Given the current standings, the final playoff spot likely will demand a record close to .500, meaning the Sixers would need to finish the season with about a 24-10 mark.
The hole they've dug is deep, but in the last few years the Sixers went on hot streaks after the all-star break.
"It might be a big hole, but I think in the past nobody thought we had the talent to do it," said swingman Andre Iguodala. "I think with this group, we have a little bit more talent, so we know what we can do, and we have a little bit more confidence. We know we should win certain games."
Dalembert's ailing. Because of a sore lower back, Dalembert participated only in the walk-through portion of practice. The center said he tweaked his back on Wednesday but planned to be in the lineup tonight.
"I have to play [tonight]; I don't have the luxury," Dalembert said. "If we were 40-10, I would have the luxury to sit down, but not at this point."