Though Andrew Bynum's return would surely help the Philadelphia 76ers in their quest to reach the playoffs, they appear to be plenty confident with or without him.
The Minnesota Timberwolves' postseason hopes have all but faded without the injured Kevin Love.
The road-challenged 76ers look to open the season's second half on a strong note Wednesday night against a Timberwolves team that has lost 16 of 19.
Ninth-place Philadelphia (22-29) entered the All-Star break having dropped three of four, including last Wednesday's 94-92 loss at Milwaukee. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes combined for 39 points and Jrue Holiday added 16 and 12 assists as the 76ers wasted a chance to gain ground on the Bucks for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"This win would have felt great. It's very disappointing," guard Nick Young said. "You just try to do your best over the All-Star break to get over it."
While Bynum was at one point planning to return following the break, he's still roughly a week or two away from practicing due to knee troubles that have sidelined him since he was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.
"I don't think anyone is more upset than myself," Bynum said. "I have the most to lose by not playing and I want to get back."
The 76ers would love to have him back sooner than later, but they know they can't afford to sit around and wait with a playoff spot at stake.
"I feel like if we're going to make the playoffs, we need to make that push now," said Holiday, Philadelphia's lone representative at last weekend's All-Star festivities. "I know once it gets closer to that time, that pressure kind of hits you, it's harder to buckle down.
"We need to get it done now, even though we still have a couple more injuries, this team that we have here, we're all fighters ... everybody's mentally right."
Philadelphia, which is expected to be without starting forward Thaddeus Young for a fifth straight game due to a pulled hamstring, is looking to avoid a season-worst seventh consecutive road defeat. The 76ers have been outscored by an average of 13.5 points during that skid and are 2-14 over their last 16 games in opposing arenas.
Sitting in 12th place in the West, the Timberwolves (19-31) have compiled a 4-17 record since Love broke his shooting hand for the second time.
While the two-time All-Star isn't likely to return until the middle of next month, Minnesota could get a boost from Andrei Kirilenko, who's expected to play following a five-game absence due to a quad injury.
"We expect to step up, now we've got AK back," center Nikola Pekovic told the team's official website. "I see signs that we can play against anybody. ... We just need to step up and finish games."
The Timberwolves concluded the first half with another close call last Wednesday, falling 97-93 to Utah. Derrick Williams had a season-high 24 points and career-best 16 rebounds as Minnesota shot a season-low 34.1 percent and was outscored 54-30 in the paint.
Ricky Rubio continued his impressive play, posting 18 points, 10 assists and a career-high nine rebounds. He is averaging 15.0 points and 10.0 assists over his last six games.
"We have to try to start winning more games," Rubio said.
Minnesota, which has taken nine of 11 in this series at home, cruised to a 105-88 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 4.
The Associated Press News Service
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