Will Bucks Game Have Playoff Feel?

Jrue Holiday and the Sixers face Milwaukee tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Doug Collins isn't dwelling on the playoff picture, but he is reminding his players how important these next two games are for the 76ers.

Due to the fact that the Eastern Conference is both top and bottom-heavy, with six teams having winning records and the rest sporting losing marks, the Sixers should be in the hunt all season for the seventh and eighth seed.

Even with a 15-23 mark, the Sixers entered Friday ninth in the Eastern Conference. Indiana was seventh at 16-20; Charlotte was eighth at 15-21 and Milwaukee was ninth at 14-22.

The Sixers lost on Tuesday to Indiana, and after tonight's game with Milwaukee, they end their three-game homestand with Charlotte on Monday.

So even though we're not at the midway point, these head-to-head meetings are crucial. In short, the Sixers need to win their next two home games against two of their main postseason competitors.

The Sixers are 1-0 against the Bucks, with two games left against them in Milwaukee.

Against Charlotte the Sixers are 1-0 but play the Bobcats twice next week, Monday at home and Thursday on the road.

While some may scoff at playoff talk for a sub .500 team, the benefits of experiencing the postseason on a young squad are invaluable.

So Collins has let the players know in no uncertain terms how big these next two games are.

"I think I am starting to (understand) that it is kind of a big deal to beat the teams around us like Detroit (with 12 wins), Indiana and Charlotte," Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday said after Friday morning's shoot-around at the Wells Fargo Center. "The coaches have been talking about this in the playoff run, that you can't give games back like this."

The Sixers have given back two in a row, losing 112-109 in overtime Saturday on the road against the Pistons and 111-103 at home on Tuesday against Indiana.

As for tonight's game, Collins said there will be no lineup changes. Andre Iguodala says he is feeling better and will start as he shakes off the rust after returning against Indiana following a more than two-week layoff due to his Achilles injury.

Collins also said that he hopes Andres Nocioni will play. Nocioni has a fractured and dislocated right middle finger.

The Sixers have lost two in a row and four of the last six. Now is the time to get into a groove and have the Sixers show they deserve to be mentioned among the playoff teams, even if it is in the Eastern Conference.

- Marc Narducci

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