Samuel Dalembert was conspicuously ineffective as the Philadelphia 76ers started their recent surge. Now that he's playing well and having fun again, the team's playoff push is even more convincing.
Dalembert and the 76ers go for their 12th win in 15 games as they try to continue their climb in the Eastern Conference standings by visiting the lowly Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
Philadelphia (29-33) lost 13 of its first 17 games after the calendar turned to 2008, but has won 11 of 14 since Feb. 5 to pull into seventh place in the East.
Dalembert, averaging career highs of 10.9 points and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 51.3 percent from the field, was surprisingly quiet for much of the team's run. He averaged just 8.0 points and 9.3 boards while shooting 43.5 percent in 12 games from Feb. 5-March 1.
In his last two games, however, the 6-foot-11 center from Haiti has put up consecutive double-doubles for the first time since Jan. 18-19. He tied a season high with 22 points and added 13 rebounds while making 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts in the Sixers' 117-83 win over Seattle on Friday night.
"It's been a little while since I had fun. It's been a little while since I enjoyed myself," Dalembert said. "I'm just trying to go back to that same way no matter what happens. Winning is our goal, but sometimes you have to try to look for the fun."
It might be easier to have fun with the Sixers suddenly thriving. They're hoping to pull within three games of .500 for the first time since they were 14-17 on Dec. 31, and appear optimistic about their chances of advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2005.
"I just love the way we're playing," Dalembert said. "We're winning basketball (games) so that's most important."
While Dalembert has just come on recently, Philadelphia has gotten significant contributions from a number of players during its hot streak. Since Feb. 5, Andre Iguodala is averaging 21.1 points and shooting 48.8 percent from the field, and Andre Miller is averaging 17.5 points and 8.1 assists while shooting 52.2 percent.
In that same stretch, Willie Green is averaging 14.4 points and shooting 50.0 percent, and rookie Thaddeus Young is scoring 11.1 points on 63.1 percent shooting.
"We are feeding off each other and not just forcing one guy to score," said Iguodala after seven Sixers reached double figures in scoring in Friday's win - the team's third in a row.
Philadelphia will take its balanced attack into Milwaukee, where the Bucks (23-39) fell 103-101 to Portland on Friday night for their fourth loss in five games.
"We had some missed shots and turnovers," said Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose team gave up more than 100 points for the seventh time in eight games. "It's frustrating."
Milwaukee has given up 103.0 points per game in going 1-2 against the Sixers this season. These teams last met in Philadelphia on Jan. 30, when Iguodala had 18 points to lead seven Sixers in double figures in a 112-69 rout.
Philadelphia led by as many as 47 in that game and recorded its largest margin of victory since Dec. 8, 1982.
"This is one we need to forget about," Krystkowiak said after that contest.
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