CHICAGO (AP)—As if the parade of losses wasn’t enough, the star forward withdrew minutes before tipoff with a bad back.
But against that dreary backdrop, the Philadelphia 76ers perhaps saved their season.
Allen Iverson scored 39 points and the slumping 76ers beat Chicago 89-75 on Saturday night to tie the Bulls for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
That snapped the Sixers’ three-game losing streak and gave them a four-game split with the Bulls. Chicago currently owns the next tiebreaker, better conference winning percentage, if the teams finish in a two-way tie.
A Sixers team that was in a 4-13 nosedive got what it desperately needed against the Bulls, who had won a few days earlier in Philadelphia.
“If we lost this one, it’s almost a wrap,” said Andre Iguodala, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Philadelphia (35-41) was without forward Chris Webber, a late scratch with a lower back strain.
But the Sixers still had Iverson. And a Bulls team (35-41) that had won four straight and six of seven really didn’t have an answer.
Iverson scored nine points in the second quarter as the Sixers built a 47-37 halftime lead, and he had eight points in a 16-0 run early in the third that blew it open at 63-39.
He and Iguodala hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 55-39 early in the run. A few minutes later, the Philadelphia bench jumped to its feet and let out a collective “Oh!” as Iverson buried a 3-pointer, got fouled by Jannero Pargo and completed a four-point play that made it 61-39 with 8:22 left in the third.
Iverson added a jumper to make it 63-39, before Chicago’s Andres Nocioni hit a reverse layup with 5:50 left to stop the run.
It was a stark contrast to Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia, when the Bulls won by seven and temporarily took possession of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Sixers’ woes continued with Friday’s loss to Boston, but Saturday’s victory was a much-needed reprieve.
Chicago and Philadelphia now trail seventh-place Indiana by 1 1/2 games and sixth-place Milwaukee by two.
“We knew we were going to be short-handed, being that Chris wasn’t playing, and other guys stepped up and played big for us,” Iverson said.
Samuel Dalembert scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Sixers, who allowed their lowest point total of the season. Former DePaul player Steven Hunter contributed nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks after learning during the pregame layup line that he would start for Webber.
“I’ve got to admit I had butterflies in my stomach,” Hunter said. “I’ve never started before my home crowd.”
Nocioni delivered his sixth straight double-double, with 19 points and 10 rebounds, for Chicago. But he had little help.
Starting guards Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon scored five and 14, respectively, with Hinrich shooting 2-for-13. Ben Gordon wasn’t much help off the bench, finishing with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.
The Bulls shot a season-low 32.6 percent (28-for-86) from the field—a performance that Hinrich deemed “horrific.”
Put simply, they looked more like the team that lost four in a row and six of eight and appeared headed to the draft lottery a few weeks ago.
“We pretty much got dominated from beginning to end,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “Even when it was close, it wasn’t close.”
Having Luol Deng might have helped.
The Bulls’ third-leading scorer and backup Eric Piatkowski collided during the morning shootaround and sustained concussions.
Piatkowski also suffered a laceration that required “at least 15, maybe almost 20 stitches” in the forehead, Skiles said. Both players are day-to-day.
“It was a freak accident that I had never seen before,” Skiles said. “We were doing offense at two different ends, two different teams. Both teams threw the ball at the same time in the backcourt, while both players went for it.”
Sixers G Kevin Ollie did not make the trip after straining his right quadriceps in Friday’s game against Boston. … Iverson thought he got fouled on a missed shot and got called for a technical with 3:18 left in the first half. … The Sixers outrebounded the Bulls 51-37.