Improving 76ers eye East playoff spot

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The Sixers expect to play two more games without Andre Iguodala, who has missed five straight games with Achilles’ tendinitis.

Iguodala’s absence has allowed rookie guard Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, to play an increased role and prove he’s not the bust critics pegged him as only two months into the season.

Turner’s two points against the Wizards was a bit of a setback after a solid stretch that saw him score 12 against the Lakers and a career-high 23 against Phoenix. The key is keeping it going when Iguodala returns.

Collins loves the Sixers’ youth, camaraderie and willingness to learn as they make a playoff push. Williams is 24, Young and Turner are 22 and Holiday 20. Iguodala is 26 and Elton Brand, having a great comeback season, is 31.

The talent is there _ and they playoffs are within reach.

After the Lakers loss, Collins mentioned the playoffs to the Sixers as they entered the final game of the road trip at New Orleans. He talked about the importance of a .500 trip and what it would mean to defeat a strong team like the Hornets. The Sixers lost by seven, doomed by poor shooting during the final three quarters.

Still, Collins liked the effort and the aggressiveness.

He’s talking about the playoffs and, for a team that lags well behind the city’s other three pro sports in popularity and success, the way to meaningful games in April is taking care of business in January.

“We know what we have ahead,” Young said, “and what it means to play well coming up.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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