Never give up, and believe.

Doug Collins has been preaching that to the 76ers since the beginning of the season, and yesterday the Eagles proved that doing both of those things can lead to tremendous results.

The Sixers started their eight-game road trip on Saturday night in Orlando with a thoroughly impressive, 97-89 win over the Magic, their eighth win in 11 games. Although Orlando was shorthanded due to making two trades that, among others, brought them Gilbert Arenas, the Magic still had all-everything Dwight Howard roaming the middle and Jameer Nelson running the point.

The Sixers didn't shoot well (34-for-77, 44.2 percent), got crushed on the boards (53-39) and were playing the back end of another back-to-back. But they found enough energy, got key contributions from their bench and started the long road trip on the right foot.

"This was our fourth game in 5 days, and that's tough," Collins said. "Really, this grind started after we played Boston [a one-point loss on Thursday, Dec. 9]. We practiced Friday and Saturday, then played at noon on Sunday, practiced on Monday, had a back-to-back against New Jersey and the Clippers on Tuesday and Wednesday, took off Thursday, then played the Lakers Friday and Orlando Saturday. That is a very, very tough road. But you know what I love so much about our guys is that they always compete. I have always had pride in having a well-conditioned team, and against Orlando we were playing harder at the end than at the beginning of the game. That was a real tribute to our conditioning."

Lou Williams led the Sixers with 24 points off the bench, making 13 of 14 foul shots. Andre Iguodala contributed 21 points and seven assists while Elton Brand collected 20 points and 13 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season.

As good as Brand played, it was something that happened while he was on the bench that impressed Collins most and proved to him that his team is starting to go in the direction he has paved for them.

"At one point in the game, I was putting Elton back in the game for [Marreese Speights]," Collins said. "Mo had just hit his third straight shot and Elton told me to let Mo go, that it was OK that he stay on the bench. That is something special, a player not putting himself in front of the team."

There has been significant growth by this team since it started the season 3-13 and it hasn't been in any particular area, but in all facets.

"We are playing with confidence," Collins said. "Against Orlando, we executed. Our defense never broke down and we got great play from our bench. When we had to, we were able to play big. Spencer [Hawes] got two fouls in the first half and I sat him because I wanted to be able for him to use his fouls in the second half against Dwight Howard [26 points, 20 rebounds]. Thad Young didn't score much [five points] but was terrific on the defensive end with four steals. We got contributions from everyone."

Starting a long trip with just their third road win in 13 games is something Collins believes his group will grow from.

"It's gigantic," Collins said. "After the game our players showed joy, they were proud of what they had done. This was a hard-fought win."

Six shots

The road trip continues tomorrow at Chicago before going to Boston on Wednesday . . . The team gathered yesterday at Gibson's Steakhouse in Chicago for a team dinner and watched football together for most of the day . . . After not playing for the first time in his young NBA career on Friday, rookie Evan Turner played 9 minutes Saturday . . . The team will come home after the Boston game, then fly out to Denver on Christmas Day to start the western swing of the trip.

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