PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Trying to prepare for his next game, Andre Miller appeared bored with the news. He was the Eastern Conference player of the week.
``It's cool,'' was about the best he could muster.
His eyes rarely met the faces of his questioners. The Philadelphia 76ers point guard simply stared ahead, studying game tape on the big screen.
``That's Andre,'' center Samuel Dalembert said. ``He can be so serious. He's always a little quiet.''
Quiet and humble. Miller is never the one with the colorful or catchy quote, and that's just fine with the Sixers (22-30) as long as he keeps finding ways to help them win. This suddenly hot team is in the hunt for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
``If you're not careful, you can overlook him,'' coach Maurice Cheeks said. ``But the things that he does are so vital, so important to our team. All the things he does, they're winning things.''
steady hand running the offense and seems to always makes the right play. While his scoring is up (averaging a career-best 16.7 ppg), Miller still looks first to his teammates, boosting the confidence of a fairly inexperienced rotation.
``Some of the recent success that we've had, a lot of it goes to him,'' Cheeks said.
Take Philadelphia's 84-76 win over Dallas on Monday night. Yes, the Mavericks were worn out and undermanned because of injuries, but the Sixers have struggled this season against teams with winning records even when some stars like Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal were out.
When Dallas took a double-digit lead in the first half, it appeared the Sixers were on their way to another loss to a playoff-bound team. That was until Miller, infrequently mentioned among the elite point guards like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, took over in the final 90 seconds of the first half.
He scored a basket, sank three free throws, then took off on a nifty reverse layup. He ended the half with a 3-pointer - only his third of the season on 21 attempts. When the Sixers needed someone to score the big baskets, Miller delivered. And just like that, the Sixers went into halftime trailing by only three thanks to a spurt that was the catalyst behind their fourth straight win. The Sixers have won six of eight overall.
``He's the guy right now who's really leading us,'' leading scorer Andre Iguodala said.
turns 32 next month, is a bit of a mystery inside his own locker room. He's already been traded twice in a nine-year career and his name still pops up in talk that he'll be dealt before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. While team president Ed Stefanski said he's not actively shopping Miller, contenders would surely be interested in a proven durable point guard.
``I don't know what direction this team is going to go, but you've got to ignore it and play through it,'' Miller said.
After nearly 14 months in Philadelphia, Miller is starting to reveal more of himself to teammates. Iguodala laughed as he recalled a recent plane ride where Miller had all eyes on him after talking for ``five minutes straight.''
``He stopped talking and guys were looking around, going, 'Keep going, keep going,''' Iguodala said. ``We're not used to this. I think he's definitely opening up to us and it's been really helpful.''
More helpful has been his production all season, especially the last month. Miller, who has played in 418 straight games, averaged 19.5 points, 9.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds over the four-game stretch that earned him the player of the week nod.
``We definitely want to finish this month out right, catch some teams slipping and see what happens,'' Miller said.
The Sixers went 3-1 over that period and their four-game winning streak matches a season high. The Sixers look to complete a 5-0 homestand against the 13-win Grizzlies on Wednesday night and they entered Tuesday only a half-game behind New Jersey for the eighth spot in the East.
Dalembert said there was ``no doubt'' the Sixers should make the playoffs and Cheeks has openly talked about his team making a push over the next two months to get them back in the postseason for the first time in three years.
``If you put a few things together,'' Miller said, ``it's not that hard to get in the playoffs in the East.''

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