It's not quite yet the New Year, but it feels like a different season for the 76ers.

Only a third of the way through the schedule, the Sixers have climbed out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference by going 8-3 in their last 11 games, including Saturday night's 97-89 road victory over the shorthanded Orlando Magic.

For the Sixers, it was the perfect start to perhaps the most difficult stretch of their season: an eight-game road trip filled almost entirely playoff opponents.

The Sixers, 11-16, know they must keep their heads above water during the next two weeks.

"This stretch we had coming up, was it going to be doom and gloom or was it going to be opportunity?" Sixers coach Doug Collins asked after Saturday's win, then quickly responded: "It was an opportunity for us."

The Sixers will try to make it two consecutive road wins on Tuesday night when they play the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

The Sixers did not practice on Sunday.

On Saturday night in Orlando, the Sixers were the beneficiaries of good timing as the Magic's front office executed two game-day trades that left their team with only eight healthy, active players.

"It only affected our game preparation," said Sixers guard Lou Williams, who scored 24 points in the game. "Obviously we had to change our game plan a little bit."

The schedule. In the next two weeks the Sixers will play seven games on the road: at the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and New Orleans Hornets.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.