76ers 85, Hornets 82
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Aaron McKie was just trying to execute the play. He wasn’t expecting a chance to win the game.
It was a big shot in a big game for a team that desperately needed a lift.
“We were just saying, ‘Let’s go win this,”’ McKie said. “That’s basketball. That’s fun. You go out there and just grind it out, scratch and claw and just play.”
Allen Iverson returned to the Sixers’ lineup after missing two games with a sprained finger, and had 31 points and eight assists. Kenny Thomas added 13 points and 14 rebounds for Philadelphia, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Samuel Dalembert and Glenn Robinson both finished with 11 points.
Jamal Mashburn, playing only his second game after missing the first 44 of the season following knee surgery, scored 20 points as the Hornets had their three-game winning streak snapped. Baron Davis added 19, Jamaal Magloire had 13 and P.J. Brown 12.
New Orleans held a six-point lead with 5:13 remaining but turned the ball over on its next four possessions. McKie’s 19-foot jumper from the corner tied the game at 81.
The teams traded misses before Davis drove the lane and was fouled by Dalembert. Davis made the first free throw and missed the second, and Mashburn missed a short jumper after Brown grabbed the offensive rebound.
Thomas corralled Mashburn’s miss and passed to Robinson, who found McKie open in the corner for an almost-identical 18-footer that gave the Sixers the lead with 7.1 seconds remaining.
“I didn’t go out there to be the hero,” McKie said. “I was trying to clear the lane for the big guys coming down the floor. Glenn got double-teamed and I slid over in the corner and he found me. I just made the shot.”
Mashburn attempted a fallaway jump shot on the Hornets’ final possession, but the ball rimmed out and Dalembert grabbed the rebound with one second left. He was fouled and made both free throws for the final margin.
It was a broken play that was the result of good defense by Dalembert on Davis, who could not get open.
“They key to the game was on the last play,” Iverson said. “(Sixers coach) Randy (Ayers) said he was going to take him out and Sammy told him, ‘I can guard Baron for that amount of time.’ I just looked at Randy and said, ‘He said he can do it. Give him a shot.”’
After hitting his third 3 with 6:56 left in the first quarter, Davis did not score again until he made a jumper seven minutes into the third.
The Hornets started the fourth quarter with a 10-3 run that gave them a three-point lead with 9:06 remaining. They extended the lead to six on a layup by Magloire and a jump shot by Brown around a made free throw by Iverson before the Sixers rallied to tie the game.
“We knew they were a drive-and-kick team, and I really emphasized that” Hornets coach Tim Floyd said. “We got that under control in the second half. But those two penetrations, one by Iverson, one by (Robinson) to set up McKie’s looks were big baskets for them.”
New Orleans started 5-for-8 from 3-point range but missed its next nine attempts.
Iverson had 23 first-half points, the last two coming on a reverse layup that put the Sixers ahead 55-44 at halftime.
“I think you saw the importance of having Allen back in the lineup and playing at a high level,” Ayers said. “He just took everybody with himtonight.”
The Sixers signed F Zendon Hamilton through the remainder of the season. Hamilton originally signed with the team on Dec. 10 before being released and signed to a pair of 10-day contracts. He is averaging 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13 games and did not play Friday. … The Hornets were outrebounded for the 13th time in their last 16 games. … The Sixers set a season-high with 33 points in the first quarter, then matched a season-low withonly 33 in the second half.