The Philadelphia 76ers put together a remarkable run in February and March en route to their first playoff appearance in three years. They're hoping to recapture some of that magic in their final tuneup before the postseason.
The 76ers look to avoid their fourth straight defeat on Wednesday when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats in both teams' regular-season finale.
Philadelphia (40-41) was 18-30 on Feb. 4 before winning 19 of its next 24 games. That run helped put the young Sixers in the playoffs and coach Maurice Cheeks in the running for the league's coach of the year award.
The Sixers, however, haven't looked ready for the playoffs lately. They're already locked in as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed and will face Detroit in the first round, but they've lost three games in a row and six of nine to fall back below .500.
Their latest defeat was particularly hard to swallow. Philadelphia had a 90-89 lead when the buzzer sounded, but officials reviewed the final sequence for several minutes before deciding that Sixers center Samuel Dalembert fouled Cleveland's Devin Brown with 0.2 seconds left. They brought the Philadelphia players back to the court, and Brown made two free throws to send the Sixers to a 91-90 defeat.
"You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face," Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. "It was like we had the 'W' and it was marked off."
The Sixers, who haven't had a longer losing streak since they dropped a season-high seven in a row from Jan. 2-14, hope to bounce back against the Bobcats (31-50), who will finish the fourth season in franchise history with their fourth trip to the draft lottery.
The Bobcats blew a 20-point lead to lose their last game 112-108 in overtime against New Jersey, guaranteeing that they'll finish this season with a worse record than 2006-07, when they went a franchise-best 33-49.
"I think we thought we had them buried in the books, and you can't do that to any NBA team," said Charlotte guard Jason Richardson, averaging 29.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in his last four games. "You have a team down, you have to kick them. In the NBA, if you don't kick them, they are going to kick you. That's what they did."
This game could be Emeka Okafor's last with the Bobcats. The 6-foot-10 forward, who was the franchise's first draft pick in 2004, becomes a restricted free agent in the offseason. Though he says he wants to stay in Charlotte, the Bobcats may look to shake things up after another losing season.
"This is my team," Okafor said last week. "I've been here from the jump. Of course I want to stay here.
"I'm a fierce competitor. I like being in a place that's building, progressing and moving forward and making the right moves. I'm all about winning."
Okafor has delivered two double-doubles against the Sixers this season, averaging 14.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in those games - both Charlotte losses.
Iguodala, averaging a career-high 19.8 points, has scored 26.0 with 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 54.3 percent (19-for-35) in those games.
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