A playoff preview tonight when Mavs visit? Well, sort of.

Andre Iguodala and the Sixers will look to stay above .500 tonight against the Mavs at home. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

Winners of 13 of their past 17, Sixer players and coaches are rightfully feeling good about themselves. The overall record has climbed to 30-29, and the team has won 27 of their last 43.

Monday at practice, coach Doug Collins compared tonight's matchup to a playofff game, saying: "This is the type of team that we'll probably see in the first round if we get the sixth or seventh seed," said Collins, whose team is one game behind the New York Knicks for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Elton Brand said this game will "be a great barometer for us, to see where we really are.

The last time one of the leagues powerhouses visited the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers prevailed over the San Antonio Spurs by 77-71.

Here are some keys for the Sixers tonight:

*Win the bench battle. The Sixers bench, led by Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams, has been one of the strongest parts of the team all season. The group has averaged 40.1 points this season, among the league's best. Dallas has been getting huge contributions from their reserves also, to the tune of 49.2 points during their current 16-1 run. The group of Young, Williams and Evan Turner will have to out-perform Dallas' Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and J.J. Barea.

*Frustrate Dirk Nowitzki. Attempting to contain his simply is near impossible, and he is a bad matchup for the Sixers. Last time the team's met (a 99-90 Dallas win) Elton Brand was on him early, then coach Collins rotated a plethora of players to try and stop the seven-footer. Expect to see Brand, maybe Young, Andre Iguodala and even Turner to take turns with Nowitzki.

*Keep center Tyson Chandler quiet. If Chandler can get going, the dam simply becomes a case of too many holes to plug. If the Sixers can keep him relatively quiet, limit his put-backs and easy layups, they can concentrate more defensively on the Mavs players who deserve it.

*Create turnovers. This is a big issue for the Sixers as it allows them to get out and run and get some easy baskets. If they can force Jason Kidd into some giveaways, it would go a long way.

*Keep the Mavs under 100 points. Not an easy task, and the Mavs are 32-2 when they hit the triple-digit mark.


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