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Kwisatz Haderach
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PHILADELPHIA -- Locked in a battle for a playoff berth, the 76ers begin a difficult, if short, road trip tonight in Los Angeles.

In years past, tonight’s game against the Lakers (7:30 p.m., CSN) would loom large, but the Lakers have been struggling.

With a 32-36 record, last year’s Western Conference champions have lost their last seven games and present the Sixers’ best hope for picking up a win on their three-game swing.

On Monday, they face Sacramento (43-27) and on Wednesday they run up against Phoenix, which has the best record in the conference at 51-17.

"This next one is the most important one of the season," Sixers coach Jim O’Brien said of the upcoming road trip. "It’s very hard to beat L.A., Sacramento and Phoenix all on one night. We are going to concentrate on the Lakers."

The Sixers, 34-34 after Friday’s close win over Toronto, currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

They are one game behind Indiana and two behind Cleveland. Orlando is two games behind the Sixers while New Jersey is two-and-a-half back.

And while winning the Atlantic Division is a long shot, the Sixers are three-and-half behind Boston after the Celtics lost Friday night.

"I honestly feel that, being that every game is like a playoff situation from here on out, if we approach every game the same way and understand that we’ve got to win that game and that game only then we’ll be all right," Allen Iverson said.

Right now, the Sixers hold their fate in their hands. Still, Iverson said, it’s hard not to keep checking on what other teams are doing.

"I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t get caught in it too, what Boston is doing, what New York is doing, and Jersey and all those guys in our division," Iverson said. "But I always tell my teammates, ‘Yeah, it’s cool to see what’s going on, but don’t let that distract (from) what you’ve got to do out here on the basketball court for us.’ We’ve got our destiny in our own hands. We can control it, and one game at a time we can get it done."

The Sixers missed the postseason last year after five straight playoff appearances. They have struggled all year to find consistency, but have won four of their last five games.

And for the first time since acquiring Chris Webber, the Sixers got alook at how that trade could work out when Webber scored 32 and Iverson 38 against the Raptors.

"The road trip is really big for us because we have three tough teams to play," Webber said. "If we can come back from a good road trip we should be pretty good. But the thing is -- not to say what it was before I was here, because I don’t know -- but I know we believe that we can win and that’s most of it."
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