Philadelphia 96, Indiana 93

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PHILADELPHIA (TICKER) —For three quarters, the Indiana Pacers appeared to have turned things around. In the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers took them for another spin.

Allen Iverson scored 31 points and Keith Van Horn fueled a fourth-quarter burst as the surging 76ers kept the Pacers spiraling downward with a 96-93 loss.

Philadelphia (37-26) erased a 10-point deficit in the final period and moved into third place in the Eastern Conference, percentage points ahead of Indiana (38-27), which has lost six straight games.

“We are trying to get back to where we were,” Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. “The guys are battling, they’re fighting hard. We just have to put a complete game together.”

“If you don’t play the entire game, you lose,” All-Star forwartd Jermaine O’Neal said. “If you play the majority of the game, and take a couple minutes off, you get this outcome - another loss. It looked like (we had turned the corner) for the most part, but it didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to.”

After Tuesday’s home loss to New Orleans, Thomas held a 30-minute meeting with his players to reinforce the ideas of teamwork and trust. It seemed to work as the Pacers opened a 74-64 lead with 10:21 remaining.

The Sixers, who appeared to have lost the rhythm that had given them wins in 11 of their previous 13 games, rediscovered it with a 27-6 run over the next five-plus minutes.

Philadelphia nursed an 11-point lead, managing just one basket in the last 4 1/2 minutes and surviving a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer by Reggie Miller, who spent most of the second half on the bench with a thigh bruise.

Iverson reached 30 points for the fifth straight game. He made just 7-of-22 shots but attacked the basket and sank 16-of-19 free throws.

Van Horn was plagued by foul trouble in the first half but scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime. He had nine points in the decisive run and a key tip-in that gave Philadelphia a 94-87 lead with 2:35 left.

Eric Snow and Aaron McKie scored 12 points each for the Sixers, who beat the Pacers for the first time in three meetings this season.

Indiana’s Ron Artest had 25 points and another flagrant foul, which will get him suspended from Friday’s home game vs. Utah. Thomas was very unhappy with the call.

“These are close games that we’re losing,” Thomas said. “This (is the) reputation that we have and I give (Dallas coach) Don Nelson a lot of credit. He really stuck it to us, and now everybody is kind of following along. I think that the referees are officiating our games differently and its costing us points at the end and its costing us games. Nellie, you’re the best.”

“We challenge a shot and we hit somebody in the head by accident and it’s a flagrant foul,” O’Neal said. “They come across us the wrong way, and it’s a hard foul.” The Pacers have been hurt by injuries as well.

All-Star center Brad Miller sat out with a sore left foot and Reggie Miller suffered his injury in a collision with Sixers forward Derrick Coleman late in the first half.

“You can see that it hampered him a lot,” Thomas said. “I thought that he try to give it his all, he tried to do his best, but he couldn’t get over his injury.”

Indiana still held a 76-68 lead before Philadelphia ran off nine straight points. Snow hit a jumper, Van Horn scored inside, McKie drilled a 3-pointer and Iverson leaked out for a layup and a 77-76 lead with 7:55 to play.

After a basket by Jamaal Tinsley, Van Horn sank a 3-pointer to give the Sixers the lead for good. On the next possession, Artest tackled Snow to the floor as he began to dribble upcourt and was whistled for his third flagrant foul in as many games.

“I think it caused us to get momentum,” Snow said. “It caused us to get some energy and our fans to get some energy. We got to the free throw line.”

“A lot of the games that we’ve lost because of flagrant fouls or perceived flagrant fouls or perceived technical fouls,” Thomas said. “Guys are going to the line and get free points. Instead of being a two-point lead in our favor, we’re down four.”

Snow made two free throws on consecutive possessions, making it 84-78. After a short jumper by Al Harrington, Van Horn scored inside, Iverson turned a steal into a three-point play and Snow had a fast-break layup to make it 91-80 with 4:46 to go.

“I thought Keith, after being in such foul trouble, gave us a huge lift,” Brown said. “The run that we made was because of our defense,” Van Horn said. “The reason that we shot the ball so well in the second half was we were able to getting easy layups and easy looks.”

The Pacers rallied within 94-91 as Artest scored seven points working from the post. Iverson and Jeff Foster traded free throws before Iverson badly missed on a 20-footer, giving Indiana possession with 11 seconds left.

The Sixers defended the arc well, denying a tying shot until Reggie Miller took a handoff, faked and rushed a shot that was not close.

“We switched everything,” Brown said. “We told them to play the 3-point line and switch everything. We did a great job, and he (Reggie Miller) made a pretty good ball fake, but it was so late in the clock.”

Coleman had 14 rebounds and Tyrone Hill added nine for the Sixers, who held a 50-38 edge on the boards to overcome 39.5 percent shooting (32-of-81).

O’Neal had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Harrington scored 16 points for the Pacers, who shot 42 percent (32-of-76).

Indiana led by 10 points in the first quarter but settled for a 44-39 halftime lead behind 13 pointd from Artest. Philadelphia closed to three points on three occasions in the third quarter but could get no closer.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Indiana
J. Tinsley J. Tinsley
4-9,  9 Pts
5 Rebs, 13 Assists
 Philadelphia
A. Iverson A. Iverson
7-22,  31 Pts
2 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists