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Iguodala leads 76ers to sixth straight win

Mar 10, 2007 - 6:47 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Instead of Ping-Pong balls, Andre Iguodala has the Philadelphia 76ers thinking playoffs.

Iguodala scored 31 points and the suddenly resurgent 76ers wrapped up a perfect homestand with a 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, their season-high sixth straight win.

Once considered a lock for the draft lottery, the 76ers have improved by increasing the role Iguodala plays after subtracting a pair of big names from the roster.

The 76ers improved to 19-19 since trading superstar Allen Iverson and 15-12 since waiving forward Chris Webber. Leading the way has been Iguodala, a third-year swingman who is emerging as a star.

"When you are playing one of the best players in the game in Kobe Bryant, you're going to get energized. He's been playing like that for a while," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "It has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant. It has to do with how Andre has been maturing as a player. I just think Andre has been taking his game to another level."

Philadelphia trailed, 57-51, at halftime but took over in the third quarter thanks to a 20-3 run. Iguodala scored the final eight points of the burst to give the 76ers a 71-60 lead with 6:22 left.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Iguodala said. "You spend so much energy guarding (Kobe Bryant) that you kind of forget about offense. I wanted to attack the basket and give us a spark in the third quarter when we were down and they had the lead on us."

Andre Miller scored 23 points and Kyle Korver added 18 for Philadelphia, which has won seven straight home games.

Superstar Kobe Bryant returned from a one-game suspension but was not enough to prevent the Lakers from losing their fifth straight game. Bryant, who played at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia, scored 30 points but just nine in the second half.

"I can't tell you how intense the pressure was defensively. They got up and started making it difficult to make passes," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Kobe obviously did not shoot the ball well in the second half. There's some little things that they did that were very effective out there."

Bryant was 3-of-14 from the field in the second half and the Lakers managed only 35 points. They scored 31 in the second quarter in building their six-point lead.

"They were good looks, they just fell short for me," Bryant said. "All I could get was jump shots because we're not at the level of execution where we know how to clear space. We didn't have a shooter out there. They packed the lane in which it difficult for us."

With the win, Philadelphia now has a winning home record (16-15) and moved to within 4 1/2 games of Orlando for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I don't want to think about it but it's always in the back of my mind," Iguodala said of the 76ers' playoff position. "I know where we are in the standings and I know that we're not that far out. Like I said at the All-Star break, our goal was to win every game in the second half of the season and that's still our goal."

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