Stop me if you've heard this before. The Sixers lead for the majority of last night's game only to fall short in the fourth quarter. On a night when a vocal minority came out to see one of the NBA's brightest and most popular stars on his only trip to the city of brotherly love this season, the Sixers again collapsed down the stretch en route to losing their third consecutive game, all by 4 points or less. After this latest debacle Allen Iverson said, "We played real well for the majority of the game, but collapsed at the wrong time. It seems like a déjà vu type of thing. It just keeps happening the same way and we can't seem to get it under control.
".Less than 24 hours after the Sixers inexplicably abandoned a game plan of driving to the basket to score easy layups or draw fouls in favor of recklessly launching jump shots with little success, the team came out in the first quarter last night and you guessed it, they began launching jump shots. With Chris Webber (1 for 6) and Kyle Korver, starting his first game since 1/16 thanks to Kevin Ollie's sprained ankle (0 for 5 all from 3 point range) leading the way, the Sixers shot an abysmal 36% (9 for 25) in the first quarter. Despite those stats however the team miraculously found themselves down only a single point when the quarter ended. Webber supplemented his poor shooting by becoming an absolute monster on the boards pulling down 8 of his twenty rebounds for the night, 6 on the defensive end of the court.
Prodigal center Steven Hunter added 2 powerful slam dunks on consecutive trips down the floor, the second of which came courtesy of a beautiful feed from Iverson. But the real star of the first quarter was Iverson himself. He shot 5 for 9 from the field including a stellar drive to the hoop with 23 seconds remaining where he made the layup, drew the foul and converted the free throw to bring the Sixers to within one 23-22.The second quarter began with birthday boy Matt Barnes making back to back brilliant passes, first to Samuel Dalembert for a dunk that gave the Sixers their first lead of the game and then a highlight reel alley-oop pass to Andre Iguadala sparking an 8-1 Sixers run widening that lead to 7, a lead they wouldn't relinquish until the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter.
The second twelve minutes went so well the Sixers actually increased their lead with Iverson on the bench for nearly four minutes of playing time. When John Salmons checked in for AI at the 6:50 mark the Sixers lead had been cut to two. During Iverson's absence, Barnes scored 4 of his 6 points and Salmons netted all 5 of his to give the Sixers a 45-38 lead. Their lead would get as high as 10 and the first half eventually ended with the Sixers up by 9 points (coincidentally the same number of points they held the league's 7th leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony to in the first half).
The second half began where the first half left off. The team seemed to come out inspired. Webber and Iverson each hit three pointers and after Andre Miller fouled Iguadala and was slapped with a technical foul for "disagreeing" with said call, Iguadala hit 2 of 3 foul shots to give the Sixers their largest lead of the night at 15. That is where the good news for the Sixers pretty much ended. Nuggets coach George Karl then decided to substitute reserve forward DerMarr Johnson for 7' starting center Francisco Elson. "I played small only because our ball handling was atrocious in the beginning of the third quarter.
We played small against them in Denver and we played well" Karl said when asked to explain his decision. The move certainly sparked the Nuggets as Anthony cut the Sixers lead to single digits with a baseline drive and a slam with 3:15 to go in the quarter. After a missed 3 point attempt by Barnes a loose ball took a fortunate bounce to Johnson who calmly hit a 3 of his own to cut the lead to 6.
The Sixers did manage to get the lead back to 7 at the end of the quarter but all 18,194 in attendance could sense what was on the horizon.The fourth quarter began as disastrous as it could for the home team as Denver went on a 7-0 run to start the quarter and more importantly tie the game at 79. Former Sixer Greg Buckner then hit a three pointer to put Denver up 82-79 at the 9:20 mark of the final stanza. The feeling of impending doom was now cascading through the crowd.
The Sixers answered back though and tied the game again with 6:40 remaining only to see Denver rattle off 5 unanswered points in the next 40 seconds. With a chance to once again tie the game with three minutes remaining, Webber missed two free throws finishing the night an unacceptable 6 for 12 from the charity stripe. Showing his ability to lift up this team and carry it on his back, Iverson tied the game once again on a drive and layup with 2:05 left in regulation. After a Denver shot clock violation, Iverson missed a running one hander from the left of the lane that could have reclaimed the lead for the Sixers. Andre Miller then misfired on his attempt to take the lead but somehow managed to scoop up the loose ball while lying on his back and called a timeout with 34 seconds left to play. Out of the time out Anthony drove through Korver and Iguadala to hit a breathtaking reverse layup to give Denver the lead back with only 18.
9 seconds remaining. The Sixers, looking to set up the tying field goal, called a timeout of their own. Coach Cheeks diagramed the play. Iguadala inbounded the ball to Iverson, who drove the lane looking for the tying bucket or a foul call. He got neither.
His finger roll attempt was blocked out of bounds by Johnson. "I just tried to use my left arm to try to stay in front of him" said Johnson, "I'm tall but I'm very quick". Marcus Camby added "DerMarr was awesome. For a guy who gets inconsistent minutes he stayed professional. Coach called him and he made some key defensive plays on Iverson". The Sixers were then set to inbound the ball with 11.
7 seconds left. Webber received the pass and with Iverson blanketed by Johnson, he handed the ball over to Korver. Kyle drove the lane but had his lay up attempt rejected by Camby capping an absolute nightmare shooting night for Korver (3 for 16, including 1 for 12 from 3 pt. range).
Anthony grabbed the rebound off the block, was fouled and promptly made both scoring his 19th and 20th points of the half sealing the come from behind victory for Denver 97-93.With New Jersey floundering recently and idle until Sunday night, a win here could have gone a long way towards catching them for the division lead (which by the way things are progressing may be the only way to make the playoffs) but instead the home team and fans were once again left angry, frustrated and looking for answers.Hmmmmmmm??.I feel like I've been here before.Sixer Notes:.
--Chris Webber recorded his 28th double-double of the season. It was also the second time this season and 11th time in his career he recorded 20+ rebounds in a game.--The Sixers have out rebounded their opponents in the last two games (104-87) after being out rebounded in their previous 11.--The Sixers shot below 40% in consecutive games for the first time this season. 38.5% last night and 37.
5% in Boston Wednesday night.--Last night's game completed the Sixers' home schedule against the Western Conference. They finished 11-4 against the West at the Wachovia Center after going 4-11 last year.--As noted Kevin Ollie did not dress for the game due to a right ankle sprain..By Michael Bergen Staff
By: Michael Bergen