With the league’s leading scorer sidelined with two sore thumbs, the 76ers blew a 21-point first-half lead and trailed by 13 in the fourth quarter Saturday night before rallying for a 112-106 over the slumping Washington Wizards.
The victory gave the 76ers a season-high four-game winning streak and put them two games over .500 for the first time this season. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings, just two games behind the Wizards, who have lost five straight.
“We’re two games over .500, isn’t that wonderful?” coach Jim O’Brien said with a smile. “All these firsts.”
Andre Iguodala, Willie Green and Marc Jackson scored 20 points each to lead six 76ers in double figures as the team spread the wealth without Iverson, who hurt his thumbs in Friday night’s win over Cleveland, and without Chris Webber, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left shoulder. Philadelphia improved to just 2-5 with Iverson out of the lineup.
“It would have been easy to just fold, just fold,” Jackson said. “It would have been easy to fold and have an excuse that Allen and Chris are not here. But we have so much fight as a unit. We have so much fight as a team and so much pride—that Philadelphia pride.”
Gilbert Arenas scored a career-high 44 points for the Wizards, who are rapidly descending in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington once seemed securely set for the fourth seed and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but now there in uncertainty as to whether they will even make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
“I think we are trying to learn what this time of year is about,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “A lot of these teams have playoff experience, and this is something that a young, new first-time playoff-contending team has to learn.”
Arenas made 13 of 24 field goal and 12 of 15 free throws for the Wizards, but Larry Hughes was his only reliable scoring teammate. Hughes, playing with a painful sprained elbow, scored 23 points but had five turnovers. Antawn Jamison, returning after missing two games with a sore knee, scored 14 points on 6-for-18 shooting.
Once again, the Wizards came out flat, hardly playing defense in a first half in which the 76ers shot 59 percent—including 57 percent from 3-point range—and had assists on 18 of their 23 field goals.
“We need to start playing from the beginning, as soon as the jump ball,” Arenas said. “The starters need to come out and play for real. We need to stop somebody. We can’t until the second unit comes in and we decide, ‘OK, now we need to play some defense.’ We need to do it from the beginning.”
Green started in place of Iverson and finished with nine assists. He also stole the ball from Arenas and fed Samuel Dalembert for a fast break dunk with 48 seconds remaining, capping an 8-0 run that gave the 76ers a 108-101 lead.
“When I found out that I was playing, I just wanted to come in and give it what I’ve got while I’m on the floor, so that’s what I went out there and tried to do,” Green said. “I got up early this morning today and got on the treadmill because I knew I was going to be running with Gilbert and Larry and Juan (Dixon), so that helped me.”
The Wizards had a 13-0 run to take a 93-80 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the 76ers answered immediately with a 12-0 run to pull within one with 6:19 to play. While Washington’s push was led overwhelmingly by Arenas and Hughes, the 76ers had contributions from their entire lineup.
The 76ers started the game at a torrid pace, hitting open jumpers and taking advantage of open lanes to the basket. Five 76ers scored in a 17-0 run that built a 42-21 lead early in the second quarter.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Jackson said. “The chemistry is there at the right time. Chris will be back and hopefully Allen will be back for the next game. We’re staying ready. We know what we have to do to perform and win games, and we’re willing to do it.”
Arenas has scored 40-plus points six times this season. He had matched his previous career high of 43 against Boston on Tuesday. … Philadelphia won the season series 2-1. … 76ers forward Josh Davis needed four stitches over his left eye after getting hit under the basket in the second quarter, but he returned to the game in the second half. … Wizards playoff tickets went on sale Saturday. More than 16,000 tickets were sold in the first 2 1/2 hours.