Sixers beat the Spurs for third straight win

March 15, 2008 8:06:14 PM PDT
The packed Philadelphia crowd rocked and roared like it did earlier this decade when Allen Iverson turned the 76ers into a perennial playoff team. When Iverson returns to his former home for the first time next week, he'll recognize that raucous environment. What might seem unfamiliar is Philadelphia's spot in the standings, because the franchise he left 15 months ago in disarray is now a bona fide playoff contender.

Andre Miller scored a season-high 32 points and Andre Iguodala had 25 to lead the Sixers to their third straight sparkling victory, 103-96 over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.

"It was a great game for us," said coach Maurice Cheeks. "I loved playing in a building like that, rocking like that with the fans cheering for us. It was great."

The Philly faithful had good reason for the vocal support. The Sixers already knocked off Detroit and Chicago in succession on the road this week and won at Milwaukee last Sunday.

Philly (33-34) pressured the Spurs into turnovers from the opening tip and turned back some late spurts by the defending champs.

"We could never get a run going," the Spurs' Manu Ginobili said. "They didn't miss many shots and every time we got within seven, they hit a big shot or we turned over the ball."

Miller, the steady point guard who has really led Philadelphia's turnaround, hit so many of those big shots. Playing with a bad back, Miller went 11-for-14 from the floor and made 10 of 11 free throws. He did not attempt a 3-pointer.

"We're just playing some good basketball, especially this month," Miller said. "We've held our own and everyone's doing a good job."

Cheeks said he watches the scoreboard and especially keeps an eye on Washington, which entered Saturday holding a one-game lead on the Sixers for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers are on track for their first playoff berth since 2005 and moved within a game of .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 on Nov. 9. That spiraled into a 5-13 start, but Philadelphia is 17-6 since Jan. 26 and has won nine of its last 10 at home.

Tony Parker scored 27 points, Ginobili had 22 and Tim Duncan 16 for the Spurs, who were coming off a loss a night earlier at Detroit. San Antonio lost its third straight game overall and fifth in a row on the road.

Samuel Dalembert had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Lou Williams scored 12 points for the Sixers.

The Spurs, who had Bruce Bowen back in the lineup after a one-game suspension, rallied after they trailed by as many as 13. Parker hit a running jumper late in the third that made it 72-66 and San Antonio seemed as if it might finally get untracked after mostly uninspired basketball.

But Miller knocked down a 14-footer and hit a pull-up jumper that stretched the lead back to 79-66. The Sixers led 83-73 at the end of the third.

Parker's layup brought the Spurs within six again late in the fourth and then Ginobili blocked Miller's shot. The Spurs couldn't convert on the other end and Iguodala sank a difficult, step-back jumper with Bowen's hands up in his face that made it 94-86.

Miller hit another basket that brought the fans to their feet while Dalembert ran down the court waving his arms for the 19,942 to cheer even louder. Iguodala hit two free throws to seal the win.

Up ahead for the Sixers is a Wednesday date with Denver and the player Miller was traded for: Iverson. Iverson returns to Philadelphia for the first time since the former MVP was traded in December 2006, which will guarantee another packed house and likely a huge ovation.

"I'm sure Wednesday will be a good challenge for us with Allen coming in here," Williams said.

The Sixers rallied from an 18-point deficit to win at Chicago on Friday night and carried that momentum over into this one, where they earned a rare and robust standing ovation when they led 28-23 at the end of the first quarter.

The Sixers are 12-2 in the second game of their last 14 back-to-backs (12-7 overall).

"You've got to be able to turn around and get right back into the fray," Cheeks said. "This was another example of doing that."

The Sixers made only one turnover in the first half while the Spurs committed nine, including three by Ginobili. Iguodala's driving layup gave the Sixers their first 13-point lead and Dalembert's alley-oop from Iguodala made it 53-40. They took a 53-45 lead into the break.

Philadelphia's one turnover in the first was its fewest in any half this season. ... The Sixers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Spurs. ... The Sixers made 24 free throws while the Spurs only attempted 19.