PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Just like they did so many times when Larry Brown was their coach, the Philadelphia 76ers turned to their defense to bail them out.
The Sixers held Boston to just 27.8 percent shooting (10-for-36) in the second half, erasing a nine-point halftime deficit.
“We got a little more defensive and really started to contest shots,” first-year coach Randy Ayers said. “We did a solid job at that end of the floor.”
Pierce scored eight straight points on a dunk and consecutive 3-pointers as Boston tied it at 83 with 1:28 left. Aaron McKie answered with a jumper to give the Sixers an 85-83 lead with 1:05 to go, and a swarming defense forced a shot clock violation of Boston’s next possession.
After Iverson missed a driving layup, Walter McCarty missed a 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left. Iverson then iced it with two free throws.
“That’s what we’re trying to get to, play gritty, blue-collar basketball,” McKie said. “If we can do that, we can have a good defensive team.”
Iverson, back after missing one game with a knee injury, made four of his last five shots and finished 8-for-25. He had a team-high eight assists.
He missed a wide-open layup in the third quarter when it appeared he couldn’t decide whether to dunk or lay it in. A minute later, Iverson made a dunk on a fast break.
The Celtics were coming off a loss to New Orleans on Wednesday in which they scored a season-low 73 points. They had 66 points through three quarters, but missed 16 of 24 shots in the fourth quarter.
“Our offense stopped in the second half,” Celtics coach Jim O’Brien said. “We have to play the brand of basketball we’ve been playing in first halves. I can’t figure it out.”
After a basket by Baker gave the Celtics a 68-65 lead to start the fourth, the Sixers went on an 8-0 run and didn’t trail again. Iverson hit a 3-pointer to tie it and a jumper for a 71-68 lead.
Consecutive fast-break layups by McKie and Iverson extended Philadelphia’s lead to 83-75.
The Celtics took their biggest lead, 51-39, on a jumper by Pierce that capped a 12-4 run with 7.5 seconds left in the first half. John Salmons answered with his second straight 3-pointer right before the buzzer to cut it to 51-42.
“I really don’t understand it,” Pierce said. “Some way, somehow we play good first halves and then, in the third quarter, we start to let teams back into games. We are not playing with a sense of urgency for the whole 48minutes.”
Through the first 12 games, Boston has not been involved in a game in which 100 points were scored—the longest such streak for the Celtics since the start of the 1953-54 season. … Robinson has missed nine games with a sprained left ankle. Coleman has missed five with a strained left knee. … The Sixers have won 16 of their last 21 games against Boston. … Eric Snow is theonly Sixers player to start all 13 games.