76ers 92, Bobcats 83
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Less than three weeks ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were considered a joke around the league.
Now they want to laugh all the way to a division title.
The Sixers were 19 games under .500 on Jan. 21, but have won seven of 11 to jump past woeful Boston and get out of last place in the Atlantic Division.
Next stop: picking off the third-place Knicks.
“Anything’s possible,” center Samuel Dalembert said. “Yeah, it’s the worst division, but all you need to do is win the division and anything is possible. There’s still hope.”
Added Kyle Korver: “We’re trying to make the playoffs.”
OK, that all sounds good, but here’s the reality check: Even with their recent inspired play, the Sixers trail division-leading Toronto by 9 1/2 games and are five games behind New York.
“We’re not playing for next year,” Korver said. “We’re playing for now.”
The Sixers are a more unselfish, exciting team and, most important, have been winning since cutting ties with Allen Iverson and Chris Webber. Iguodala has been the biggest beneficiary of the roster shakeup, that included the addition of steady Miller.
Nothing more than a nice complementary player known best for his flashy dunks, Iguodala has blossomed during the last month. He’s scored 22 or more points in five of the last six games, and set a career high in points twice since Dec. 29.
Turns out, the Sixers kept the right A.I. as they build for the future.
“The way he’s been performing is one of the reasons why we’ve been as successful of late,” coach Maurice Cheeks said.
“We had an opportunity to put something on the board and we didn’t get it done,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.
The Bobcats climbed back into it after the Sixers went without a field goal in the final 6:57. Iguodala’s reverse slam late in the third wowed the minuscule crowd and stretched the Sixers’ lead to 71-53.
That should have been enough to finish off the Bobcats. But the Sixers’ last two games were decided by a combined three points, and they nearly blew this one after building an 18-point lead.
Walter Herrmann hit a jumper late in the fourth that pulled the Bobcats within 10, then sank two free throws with 1:20 remaining that cut it to 89-80. Primoz Brezec sank a 3 from the corner that trimmed the gap to 89-83, but it wasn’t enough as the Sixers sealed it from the free-throw line.
“We made a good run and we just didn’t capitalize on it,” said Matt Carroll, who scored 11 points. “It’s tough to get back into it.”
The Sixers all say they’re having fun for the first time all season with the losing curbed for now and the distractions and drama gone from the locker room.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Korver said. “We’re still developing our roles.”
The Bobcats struggled from the floor all game, but went on a mini-spurt to open the third quarter. Adam Morrison’s jumper with 6 minutes left pulled the Bobcats to 58-51.
But Korver drilled a 3 off the break and Iguodala scored four straight points to make it 69-53.
Then came Iguodala’s dunk. Korver scooped a loose ball, tossed a long pass to Iguodala, who came down the right side with the ball cupped in his right hand and went under the basket for a twisting reverse dunk.
Most fans will have to catch that on the highlight reel. The Sixers had a season-low crowd of 11,027, and that number was pretty generous.
The 76ers had 26 defensive rebounds in the first half. … The Bobcats scored only two points off 10 Philadelphia turnovers in the first half, while the Sixers scored nine points off seven Charlotte turnovers. … The Sixers blocked a season-high nine shots.