76ers 92, SuperSonics 89
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Joe Smith keeps disappointing all those Philadelphia fans who want the 76ers to win the No. 1 draft pick.
For the diehards clinging to postseason dreams, Smith, Andre Iguodala and the rest of the Sixers are giving them a reason to believe.
Iguodala had his third triple-double of the season and Smith swished the winning jumper with 14.4 seconds left to lead the 76ers to the fifth straight win, 92-89 over the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday night.
“The more we win, the more they’ll appreciate us,” Smith said. “I don’t think we’re going to go out there and try and blow any games and win any lottery picks.”
Iguodala finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and Andre Miller had 17 points.
Once a leading candidate to earn the most pingpong balls in the draft lottery, the Sixers instead are talking about the playoffs. The postseason is still a long shot, for sure, but thinking about it beats another dreary end to the season—only don’t tell that to Sixers fans who want their team to lose and get that No. 1 pick.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep getting them angry if that’s the case,” said Smith, himself a former No. 1 overall selection.
Ray Allen led Seattle with 29 points. The SuperSonics had their three-game winning streak snapped a night after an emotional 100-99 win at New York.
The Sonics have suddenly gotten used to these late-game finishes, only this time they were on the losing end. They even missed the final-minute free throw, too, after they held on to beat the Knicks when Stephon Marbury missed tying a free throw with 0.9 seconds left.
Allen was fouled by Kyle Korver on a driving layup that tied the score at 89-all with 36 seconds left. Allen, a 90 percent free-throw shooter who had made his first six, missed this one.
Then Smith, considered a throw-in player in the Allen Iverson trade with Denver, showed again that he’s more valuable to the Sixers than just an expiring contract. He came off a screen and made the 18-footer for the winning basket.
Iguodala went 1-for-2 from the line and Allen was off on his last-ditch 3-point attempt.
“I was surprised I was so open,” Allen said. “I think I rushed it a little bit. I wish I could have it back and I would take a second longer and set my feet.”
Here’s something else besides close wins that was missing from the Sixers earlier this season: some fun. Smith’s winning bucket came from a pass by Iguodala that gave the swingman his 10th assist of the game and his fourth career triple-double. Purely a coincidence that it came on the last basket, right?
“The stats are posted on that scoreboard so I think he must have took a peek before that final play,” Smith said, laughing.
Philly led almost the entire game except for a brief stretch in the third quarter and held on for its sixth straight win overall at home. The Sixers have won all five games on their six-game homestand that ends Friday night against the Lakers. They improved to 15-15 at home and have won 13 of 22 overall.
The Sixers raced to a 13-point lead only to fall apart to open the second half. They missed eight of the first 10 shots—Hunter missed a dunk, and Iguodala shot an airball—that allowed Seattle to climb back and take the lead on Nick Collison’s bucket.
But Miller made a pair of shots that rallied the Sixers to a 71-66 lead.
Iguodala fouled Allen on a 3-point attempt, and the Seattle star made all three free throws to pull the Sonics to 81-79 late in the fourth. But Korver, who has having a horrendous night, quickly made a 3 at the other end.
Damien Wilkins hit a 3 and Collins, who had 11 rebounds, made a free throw that pulled Seattle to 87-85. Korver finished only 4-for-13 but made a couple of big ones late, including a jumper from the left corner that pushed the lead back to four.
The Sixers were 12-for-21 from the free throw line; the SuperSonics 14-of-16. But Seattle was a woeful 38 percent shot from the floor.
“It was a struggle all night,” Seattle coach Bob Hill said. “We just couldn’t make shots. It was incredible we were still in it.”
The 76ers swept Seattle for the first time since 1999-00. … With the Sixers looking to add a player to the roster on Thursday, former UNLV forward Louis Amundson was in the locker room before the game. Amundson looks stunningly similar to Korver, and some players were duped into thinking the two were related. … Sixers F Rodney Carney (shoulder) missed his fourth straight game.