While the end is near for the A.I. era, there’s seemingly no end in sight for the Sixers’ losing streak.
Randolph’s basket came after Chris Webber hit his second 3-pointer of the season to tie the score. But it couldn’t help Philadelphia avoid its first eight-game losing streak since April 1997—Iverson’s rookie season. The Sixers (5-15) have lost 15 of 17 and are tied with Charlotte for the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a challenge, but you can’t script it,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “If I could script it, we’d have a winning record. The challenge is, I’m going to keep these guys up. We’re going to make them realize some of the positives.”
Sixers chairman Ed Snider watched the game from a suite instead of his normal courtside seat, chatting possible trades with team president Billy King. Whatever the Sixers get in return likely won’t be enough to put them back into the playoff race this season.
“I just know you’re not going to get equal value for a little monster that good,” Webber said.
Nearly all traces of the inactive Iverson were gone from the Wachovia Center, and the usually faithful fans were also absent. Iverson’s nameplate was removed, his locker was cleaned out, and the pregame lineup video featured none of his dazzling highlights.
The last Sixer in the starting lineup introduced was Kevin Ollie. No offense to the steady journeyman, but there won’t be a run on No. 12 jerseys any time soon.
Yes, Iverson was still a Sixer on Monday night, though he was not in the arena, the third straight game he was on the inactive list. Iverson’s days in Philadelphia are numbered and the NBA’s leading scorer may soon have his trade demand granted.
“My concern is trying to win some games,” Webber said. “I don’t want to finish playing with a loser. I definitely hope the situation resolves itself, but losing is so frustrating that it takes precedence over something like that.”
For a while, it seemed with one A.I. gone, another one would take over. Andre Iguodala tied a career high with 27 points, rallying the Sixers from a 16-point first-half deficit.
But Iguodala had little help. Kyle Korver was the only other Sixer in double digits with 10 points.
Randolph scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his return to the lineup after a one-game suspension for making an obscene gesture to Pacers fans in Indiana on Friday. Juan Dixon scored 17 points and Ime Udoka had 12.
“It was a real confidence boost because the hardest place to win is on the road,” Randolph said. “We just have to take this home and win games at home.”
Webber turned a steal into a bounce pass and a dunk by Iguodala in the fourth to give the Sixers a 70-63 lead. But Portland came back with a 14-4 run with two free throws by Dixon making it 79-76. Webber then took a pass on the wing from Korver and drilled the open 3.
But Webber was subbed out on the final possession for defensive purposes, with Cheeks putting Alan Henderson on Randolph. Randolph beat Henderson on a drive for the left-handed layup and the win.
“I want the ball at the end,” Randolph said. “I want it in the clutch. The Coach knows this and he gave me the ball.”
The crowd was listed at 11,348, but it appeared to be easily the worst in recent history. With scores of empty rows directly behind each basket, and only the occasional jeer heard, the atmosphere seemed more appropriate for a preseason game.
The Trail Blazers took advantage of the dreariness and jumped all over the lifeless Sixers. When Dan Dickau hit a turnaround jumper midway through the second, Portland held a 36-20 lead. Portland’s bench had outscored the entire Sixers team, 21-20.
But the Trail Blazers faded after the strong start. The Sixers used a 10-0 run to slice the halftime deficit to 43-37.
The Trail Blazers used 10 players in the first quarter. … U.S. gymnastics guru Bela Karolyi was at the game. … Don’t count most of the Sixers as fans of the NBA’s decision to bring back the old leather ball on Jan. 1, and scrap its new microfiber composite ball. “Why are they changing the ball?” Korver said in the locker room to nearby teammate Steven Hunter. “How stupid,” Hunter said, shaking his head. “The ball is fine.”