The much-maligned Eastern Conference playoff race may not feature as many of the NBA's elite teams as the West, but the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets aren't complaining.

The 76ers and Nets square off in Philadelphia on Saturday in a matchup between Atlantic Division rivals fighting for playoff position despite entering this game with losing records.

Philadelphia (34-35) has used an unlikely resurgence to put itself back in the chase for the postseason. After falling 12 games under .500 on Feb. 4, the 76ers have won 16 of 21. They broke even with a win over Denver on Wednesday, but missed an opportunity to claim a winning record for the first time by losing 113-95 at Orlando on Friday night.

Philadelphia gave up 14 3-pointers and allowed Orlando to shoot 53.2 percent in the loss - just its second in 10 games in March.

Despite the defeat, the Sixers remain in seventh place in the East, just one game behind Toronto.

Meanwhile, the Nets (29-40) fell into ninth place by losing 125-114 to Denver on Friday night in a game that demonstrated the disparity between the conferences. The Nuggets have a 41-28 record, but are the ninth-place team in the stronger West.

New Jersey overcame a 17-point second-half deficit, but couldn't slow Denver enough to hold on for its fourth win in five games.

"We showed some fight and got back into the game," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "But we are trying to win these games and for us, we just have to fight a little bit harder on the defensive end."

New Jersey has allowed 12 of its last 17 opponents to score at least 100 points, and the Nets are 4-8 in those games.

Their offense, however, has been able to compensate for some of the defensive struggles. The Nets are scoring 111.2 points per game and shooting 51.4 percent in their last five games.

Part of the Nets' offensive surge can be attributed to the play of point guard Devin Harris, who was acquired from Dallas in the trade that sent Jason Kidd to the Mavericks in February. Harris had 16 points and a career-high 13 assists in Friday's loss and is averaging 20.0 points and 9.8 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field in his last four full games. He played limited minutes in a loss at Chicago on Tuesday because of a sprained ankle.

Harris' play has helped backcourt partner Vince Carter regain his touch. Carter has scored 31.0 points per game and shot 56.9 percent in his last three games after suffering through a six-game shooting slump during which he was held to 16.0 points and 34.7 percent shooting.

The Nets have won three straight against the Sixers, including the first two meetings this season. New Jersey hasn't won four straight in the series since Feb. 23, 1994-Jan. 13, 1995.

These teams close the season series April 1 in New Jersey.


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