Alive on 'death row'

Spencer Hawes returned against Atlanta.
Spencer Hawes returned against Atlanta. (Associated Press)
Posted: February 06, 2012

BEFORE LAST WEEK, the main question posed to 76ers coach Doug Collins and his team was about the next 2 weeks, which included seven games against some of the top teams in the league.

Wins against Orlando and Chicago were impressive, before Friday night's 20-point loss to the Miami Heat. In that game, the Sixers stayed close before a 15-0 run by Miami in the final quarter allowed it to pull away.

After the game, forward Andre Iguodala put it best: "You have to give [Miami] credit. They give us matchup problems. We have to play damn near perfect to beat a team like that."

Which is true - Miami can be that good. But it was the next sentence out of Iguodala's mouth that personified this team: "Going forward we can improve on some things."

The team's ability to take one game at a time, to look past a loss and get ready for another game, has boded well for it all season. It certainly did again on Saturday, when the Sixers pasted the host Atlanta Hawks, 98-87, to improve to 17-7.

Now comes the second part of the "Death Row" of games, as Collins dubbed it. Visiting the Wells Fargo Center, starting tonight, will be the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Clippers. The Sixers will then finish the week with a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, which will be the start of seven games on the road of eight to be played.

Saturday, the team got a boost before the game began. Starting center Spencer Hawes played after missing the previous 10 games with a strained left Achilles.' He didn't seem to miss a step from his early good play, going for 14 points and five rebounds. Most importantly, Hawes played 32 minutes, looking as if the injury has healed.

While Hawes was back and backup rookie center Nikola Vucevic played his biggest role since injuring a quad, collecting a career-high 15 points in 21 minutes, starting power forward Elton Brand was sidelined with a sprained right thumb. He suffered the injury in the Heat loss, a game in which Brand went scoreless for just the fifth time in his career.

With Saturday's win, the Sixers still have not lost two games in a row this season, a streak they are proud of. Now they'll begin this second string of tough games tonight with the Lakers (14-10).

With their 96-87 loss at the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the Lakers dropped to 3-8 on the road. They are in the midst of playing eight of nine on the road. In the Utah loss, head coach Mike Brown was tossed after getting two technical fouls for arguing a non-call.

Six shots

Elton Brand is officially listed as day-to-day. His status will probably be known after shootaround this morning . . . Rookie Lavoy Allen took Brand's place in the starting lineup on Saturday. He finished with four points, rebounds and fouls in 12 minutes . . . The Sixers have won four straight over the Hawks . . . Over the past five games, Andre Iguodala has averaged 12.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists . . . The Sixers, Chicago and Indiana are the only three teams in the league not to have lost back-to-back games this season.

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