PHILADELPHIA -- True to his demure way, Andre Miller simply shrugged off the news that he was the Eastern Conference player of the week.
The splendid point guard simply went out and did all he could to keep the 76ers in the chase for a playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference.
Miller scored 21 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to their fourth straight win, 84-76 over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
"When you have a point guard like that, who gets guys easy baskets, those little things start to help guys with their confidence," said Andre Iguodala, who scored 14 points.
Miller gives the Sixers (22-30) confidence, all right -- enough that they are thinking playoffs.
Philadelphia has won the first four games of a five-game homestand and moved a half-game behind idle New Jersey for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers won four straight for only the second time this season, and have won six of eight overall.
"We just want to take care of business at home," Iguodala said.
Iguodala's 14 points included a pair of jumpers during a late 12-1 run that helped the Sixers pull away and earn a rare standing ovation from the home crowd.
Coach Maurice Cheeks openly talked about wanting his team to believe it could reach the postseason. With more games like this one, the Sixers might get there for the first time since 2005.
"There should be no doubt about it," Sixers center Samuel Dalembert said. "We should be in the playoffs."
Miller is the biggest reason why the Sixers are suddenly thinking about a playoff push. His steady, unassuming style helps calm a team that wanted to rebuild this season. While he's normally selfless with the ball, Miller knows when to score big buckets and rally the Sixers.
Miller scored Philadelphia's final nine points of the first half, including a nifty reverse layup and 3-pointer that pulled the Sixers from 10 down to only 53-50 at the break.
Miller had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds by halftime.
"Everybody gets involved, everybody gets a chance to make a play and that's what basketball is all about," Miller said.
The Mavericks scored only 23 points in the second half and 10 in the fourth quarter. Dallas missed 13 straight shots from the field spanning the third and fourth quarters.
"We just aren't handling adversity very well right now," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.
The Mavericks could have surely used the offensive production from their missing players. They also weren't helped by the schedule, which had them playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Mavericks forward Jerry Stackhouse (hamstring) and center Erick Dampier (ankle) each missed the game missed because of injuries. Devin Harris also missed his eighth straight game because of a bruised left ankle.
Howard left in the fourth after he collided with Sixers forward Reggie Evans and crashed on his back. He returned after a first trip to the locker room, but a bruised lower back forced him out for good with 7:17 left.
Nowitzki left in the first quarter to stretch his back and stood, instead of sitting, near the Mavericks bench each time he was subbed out. He shot 4-for-15 from the field and failed to score at least 20 points for only the second time over the last 20 games.
"We have a high standard of excellence that we want to play to," Johnson said. "We are clear on our systems and we have to try to make the necessary adjustments. Mentally and physically, we just haven't been able to sustain throughout the whole game and that's what we need to do."
The Sixers led by two early in the fourth when they ripped off their 12-1 spurt. Lou Williams, who scored 12 off the bench, scored the first two baskets on a runner and a jumper. Williams gives the Sixers energy and production off the bench and he easily darted past the fatigued and undermanned Mavs. Iguodala's 17-footer stretched the lead to double digits.
"When you play ball like this in the league, you have chances to make good things happen," Dalembert said.
|Jose Juan Barea and the Mavs find little room to work against Philly's stingy defense. (Getty Images)|
|Philadelphia (22-30) «||23||27||20||14||84|
|DAL:J. Howard 17 Pts
DAL:D. Nowitzki 9 Reb
DAL:D. Nowitzki 7 Ast
|PHI:A. Miller 21 Pts
PHI:S. Dalembert 9 Reb
PHI:A. Miller 7 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|D. Nowitzki, PF||38||4-15||7-10||9||7||3||15|
|J. Howard, SF||37||7-13||3-5||6||4||2||17|
|D. George, SG||32||4-12||2-2||4||1||3||11|
|D. Diop, C||27||0-1||0-0||9||0||3||0|
|J. Barea, PG||24||4-11||2-2||3||5||1||13|
|J. Terry, PG||30||3-10||0-0||1||1||0||7|
|B. Bass, PF||29||3-8||2-2||8||0||3||8|
|E. Jones, SG||20||2-6||0-0||6||2||0||5|
|J. Howard, PF||3||0-1||0-0||0||1||1||0|
|E. Dampier, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Stackhouse, SF||Did Not Play|
|T. Hassell, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Harris, SG||Did Not Play|
|M. Ager, SG||Did Not Play|
|N. Fazekas, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|A. Miller, PG||44||8-15||4-5||8||7||2||21|
|S. Dalembert, C||38||3-9||1-2||9||0||1||7|
|A. Iguodala, SF||37||7-17||0-4||3||4||3||14|
|T. Young, SF||27||4-6||0-0||8||1||2||8|
|W. Green, SG||23||5-11||1-2||3||1||0||12|
|L. Williams, SG||26||4-14||3-3||2||5||3||11|
|R. Evans, PF||26||1-3||0-1||8||0||3||2|
|R. Carney, SF||9||2-4||0-0||2||0||3||5|
|J. Smith, PF||6||2-2||0-0||0||0||1||4|
|K. Ollie, PG||4||0-0||0-0||0||1||0||0|
|C. Booth, C||Did Not Play|
|G. Giricek, SG||Did Not Play|
|S. Randolph, PF||Did Not Play|
|L. Amundson, PF||Did Not Play|
|H. Hill, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|