Our team is on the rise and we're real confident. I think it's the first time this season we've been completely confident in ourselves. I know this team can do so much better than what they've shown us. We just needed that extra boost of confidence, I think this is the true turning point and almost a second too late, but we got it.The Sixers have drawn some confidence from their season-high four-game winning streak, particularly after Saturday night's 112-106 victory over the Washington Wizards, a win they achieved without Allen Iverson and Chris Webber.
After blowing a 21-point second-quarter lead to fall behind by 13, the Sixers used a unit of Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, Marc Jackson, Aaron McKie and Willie Green to wrest back control of the game in the fourth quarter.
It's that kind of perseverance and tough-mindedness that has become a pleasing characteristic of this team for coach Jim O'Brien.
"I think what we're doing is that we're getting a consistent brand of mental toughness during these four games," he said after Saturday's win. "We're finding ways to win. We're getting out to leads, having teams come back, and finding ways to get it done at home and on the road.
"You want to build the mental toughness as the season goes on. I've said this all along: Our player leadership is extraordinary. It is absolutely extraordinary. I as a coach depend on it so much, and I think that's one of the primary reasons why we've hit a little bit of our stride right now."
The veterans have shown toughness. Iverson played Friday night with two sprained thumbs, yet hit the shot that clinched the win over Cleveland. When he couldn't answer the bell the next night, Jackson and McKie provided on-court leadership.
Jackson scored 20 points, sinking 8 of 11 shots from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds. McKie, though he contributed only two points, put up a line that included six assists, three steals and four rebounds combined with tough defense.
"I think it's very impressive that we won four in a row for the first time," Jackson said, "but what made it more impressive is that we did it without Allen."
Impressive, too, were the contributions of the younger players. Iguodala filled the stat sheet for 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Dalembert survived some more first-half foul trouble to finish with 18 points and eight rebounds.
But the big story was Green, who had not played in nine of the previous 12 games. The second-year guard was dusted off and inserted into the lineup in place of Iverson, then provided 20 points, nine assists and three steals, with only one turnover, in 38 minutes.
Despite his inactivity, Green didn't surprise any of his teammates.
"Willie keeps himself so focused and so ready, not just physically but mentally," Jackson said. "He reads 24 hours a day, reading the Bible, reading biographies. He keeps himself mentally ready.
"On the court, he's there, like all of our young fellows, an hour before practice and stays after practice. He's very competitive, keeps the pressure on Allen and everyone and keeps going hard. So when his opportunity comes, he's going to perform."
The Sixers had yesterday off. More may be known at today's practice on whether Iverson and Webber, who has missed the previous five games with a sprained left shoulder, will be able to play tomorrow night.
But with or without both of them, the Sixers appear to have some confidence and hope to carry the momentum from last week into this week.
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Confident Sixers hope to carry momentum