76ers-Cavaliers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 28, 2013
The Philadelphia 76ers realize it's probably too late to make any sort of realistic playoff push, but a quick glance at their schedule shows they'll have some great opportunities for wins over the next week. That far-from-intimidating stretch begins with Friday night's visit to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are still trying to figure out how they blew a late 10-point lead en route to their sixth straight loss. Philadelphia has the NBA's fourth-worst record (18-37) since the beginning of December, with only a 10-6 start keeping its extremely slim playoff hopes alive. The 76ers (28-43) are seven games behind eighth-place Milwaukee with 11 to play. That deficit could have been even greater had Philadelphia not responded after blowing all of an 18-point second quarter lead to the Bucks on Wednesday. The 76ers found themselves trailing 87-83 with 8:42 left, but scored the next 15 points en route to a 100-92 win. "It's a great feeling," Thaddeus Young told the league's official website after scoring 14 points. "We were locked in and communicating. We're focused on winning." Young was one of six 76ers to score at least 13, with Spencer Hawes' 15-point, 17-rebound performance the key to Philadelphia's 60-46 edge in the paint. Hawes has averaged 15.8 points,10.9 boards, 4.4 assists and 2.6 blocks in his last nine games. Hawes believes there's plenty to be gained in the season's final three weeks - even if a playoff spot is essentially out of the question. There certainly seem to be some good chances to put together a winning streak in the next week, with two games against league-worst Charlotte up after slumping Cleveland. "This season's been tough,'' Hawes said. "Going forward, we have a lot of pride. It's not just about next season, it's about finishing this season the right way.'' That's what the injury-depleted Cavaliers (22-48) are trying to do as well, though they were hardly in an optimistic mood after Wednesday's 93-92 loss to Boston. Cleveland led 88-78 with just over five minutes remaining before a collapse that ended with Jeff Green's game-winning layup as time expired. "We were looking at the clock, playing not to lose the game instead of to win the game,'' coach Byron Scott said. "You have to look to win. You can't hope the clock runs out and that's what we kind of did.'' Scott's team, which is missing Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao, has fallen apart coming out of the locker room after halftime all month. Cleveland has outscored its opponents by an average of 0.6 points during the opening 24 minutes in its 12 games in March, but has a minus-9.5 differential after the break. Hawes and Young might be able to have their way in the paint against a Cavaliers team that actually had Luke Walton logging late minutes at center on Wednesday. Opponents have outscored Cleveland by an average of 7.8 points in the paint this month. The Cavs held a 103-80 rebounding edge in splitting two November meetings - both teams won at home - but Varejao was healthy then. Cleveland might also want to figure out a way to limit Evan Turner's impact. The third-year forward has averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in the season series.
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