The Philadelphia 76ers have answered their critics by knocking off some of the league’s fiercest competition recently. Beating the San Antonio Spurs for a fifth straight time at home would be another boost to the Atlantic Division leaders.
Philadelphia seeks its league-leading 14th home victory Wednesday night when it faces San Antonio, which has won five straight and is in the midst of a nine-game road trip.
Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have installed the 76ers as 2 1/2-point home favorites, with the total set at 182.
The 76ers (18-7) feasted on weaker competition in the early going, with only one victory during their 10-3 start coming against a team which is currently above .500.
They’ve been just as good against the league’s heavyweights lately. They beat Orlando on Jan. 30 and routed Eastern Conference-leading Chicago two nights later, then won at Atlanta on Saturday before defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 95-90 on Monday.
Philadelphia has won six of seven – the lone loss came to Miami – and the win over the Lakers improved its home record to 13-3.
“The league should be looking at us as a poster of a real team the way we play every night,” coach Doug Collins said.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the rest of this three-game homestand with two division leaders coming to town – the streaking Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.
San Antonio (17-9) followed an impressive 107-96 win over West-leading Oklahoma City on Saturday with Monday’s 89-84 win at Memphis to open its longest road trip of the season. The fifth consecutive victory marks the team’s longest win streak since an eight-game run Jan. 7-21, 2011.
Tony Parker had 21 points and Tim Duncan added 19 with a season-high 17 rebounds.
Parker said coach Gregg Popovich has been spreading out minutes among the roster, especially given the injury to Manu Ginobili and the condensed schedule. The Spurs don’t have anyone among the league’s top 35 players in minutes per game.
Popovich said he expects Ginobili, out since breaking his hand Jan. 2, to return during the road trip.
“I think Pop tries to keep us fresh,” said Parker, who averages a team-high 33.8 minutes. “It’s rare that me, or anyone, plays 40 minutes. Over the course of the season, if you have to play 38 or 40 minutes a game, it’s tough. It takes its toll.”
The travel over the next three weeks may take its toll, especially for a team that’s only 4-8 on the road.
San Antonio won’t play another home game until Feb. 29, and it is allowing 98.3 points per game on the road compared to 89.4 at home, where it has gone 13-1.
The Spurs have lost four straight and nine of 11 at Philadelphia, where Parker has totaled 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting in his last two visits. He’s averaged 26.3 points in four games this month.
Sixth man Lou Williams has been the 76ers’ top scorer, averaging 15.5 points, and he scored 14 of his 24 in the fourth quarter Monday. It marked the sixth time Williams has scored in double figures in the fourth.
“From the start of my basketball career, and for as long as I could remember, I’ve always played well in the fourth quarter,” Williams said. “I know that’s the most important time of a basketball game.”
Williams was 3 of 13 from the field for six points in a 77-71 win over the Spurs in the most recent meeting Feb. 11, though Jrue Holiday picked up the slack with a game-high 27 points.
Duncan has averaged 11.0 points on 35.1 percent shooting in his last three games versus the Sixers.
The home team has won the last eight meetings.