Vucevic looking comfortable in starter's role

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Over the last three games, Nik Vucevic has averaged 10 points per game and 8.6 rebounds. (Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

You’ve got to like the way that rookie Nik Vucevic has responded to the responsibility of taking over for Spencer Hawes as the 76ers starting center.

Sixers coach Doug Collins said he knew shortly after the Sixers’ 103-79 loss to Boston that the 21-year old center was going to be a starter in the team’s next game at New Jersey after he checked in with 14 points, 13 boards and a pair of blocks in 29 minutes.

Over the last three games, Vucevic, the starter in consecutive wins at New Jersey and Toronto, has averaged 10 points per game and 8.6 rebounds. He is shooting the ball well from the field (he shoots it well with either hand, which is nice) as well, making 13 of 24 (54.1 percent) of his field goals over the last three games.

It should be pointed out that Vucevic preferred to come off the bench early in the season. Collins liked him in that role as well because the rookie seemed to be more comfortable taking in the game – understandable for a first-year guy – getting a handle on how the game is being played and then checking in with the second unit.

That luxury is gone, however, and it is a big challenge for him to be out there for the tip.

Who knows if the lineup changes – Jodie Meeks has replaced Evan Turner in the backcourt – will continue to provide the spark we’ve seen? What we do know is that the two road victories are the first back-to-back road wins for the Sixers since they defeated Cleveland and Charlotte way back on Feb. 11-13.

What’s also crucial is that the Sixers’ defense appears to have resurfaced. In those four losses prior to these last two wins, which have come by an average of 19.5 points, the Sixers allowed Boston, Toronto, Orlando and Miami to average 97 points per game while making an average of 48.1 percent of their field goals.

In their two wins over New Jersey and Toronto, the Sixers have held them to 88 and 75 points, respectively, and the two lottery bound clubs have made just 37.5 percent of their field goals.

Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JmitchInquirer

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