Sixers lose one they thought they won

April 14, 2008 9:39:50 PM PDT
The 76ers saw Devin Brown's shot fall short, heard the buzzer and darted toward the locker room for an apparent victory celebration. Game over? Not so fast.

Officials reviewed the final sequence for several minutes before deciding that Sixers center Samuel Dalembert fouled Brown with 0.2 seconds left and brought Philadelphia back to the court for the free throws.

Minutes after the game was seemingly over, Brown sank the pressure-packed free throws to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 91-90 win over the Sixers on Monday night and clinch the fourth seed in the East.

"I heard a whistle," Brown said. "It was just a matter of the officials going back and changing the other official's opinion. But I did hear a whistle."

While the Sixers ran off the court, the refs huddled at midcourt to look at the replay. The Cavaliers stayed on the bench, with some peeking over and hoping to hear the decision.

Because field-goal attempts and fouls at the end of each quarter are reviewable, the refs took their time to make sure the right call was made. Dalembert was whistled for his sixth foul for making contact on Brown's drive to the hoop.

"There's contact on the play by Dalembert," referee Greg Willard told a pool reporter.

Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks argued with the refs and guard Andre Miller punted the ball in frustration.

The Sixers appeared to have won after Lou Williams hit a fadeaway jumper with 5.1 seconds left - his second go-ahead basket in the final minute.

LeBron James had his shot blocked by Dalembert with 0.9 seconds left and the ball went straight to Brown. Brown went up for the basket and Dalembert came at him from his right side and the pair collided for the foul.

"You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face," Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. " It was like we had the 'W' and it was marked off."

James scored 27 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 22 and the Cavaliers clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Brown smiled while he explained why didn't think he'd get the foul call.

"Because I wear 33, not 23," he said, making a reference to James' number.

The defending Eastern Conference champs and No. 4 seed Cavaliers get to start their title defense at home against the Washington Wizards. The Cavs and Wizards will play in the first round for the third straight year.

"This is what we set out to do," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "We kind of took the long way, but we have it."

Brown said he planned to rest James and Ben Wallace on Wednesday night against Detroit. They'll join guard Sasha Pavlovic, who left with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter. Pavlovic, who averaged 7.5 points, was fouled on a baseline jumper and badly twisted his ankle on an awkward landing.

Miller scored 26 points and Williams had 21 for the struggling Sixers, who have lost all the momentum built during a torrid 11-4 March that shot them up the East standings. Philadelphia (40-41) has lost three straight and dropped under .500 for the first time since they were 34-35 on March. 21.

While the 76ers already secured a playoff spot, they were trying to stay out the seventh seed and avoid a first-round matchup with Detroit. No such luck. Philadelphia will get the Pistons and the Raptors will be the sixth seed and play Orlando.

The 76ers need a win Wednesday at Charlotte in the season finale to reach the .500 mark for the first time since 2004-05.

Williams scored 12 points in the fourth, hitting one big shot after another to rally the Sixers back from 12 down early in the quarter.

James fired an overhead pass to Ilgauskas, who easily spun around Dalembert for an uncontested layup and an 87-86 lead.

Williams and Brown exchanged layups and the Sixers trailed by one. Then Williams buried a 19-footer from the right side and the Fan Appreciation Crowd erupted in cheers one final time in the regular season.

In a flash, the win was gone.

"To be a winner, then a loser, that's pretty tough," Cheeks said.

The 76ers retreated to the locker room where they watched the final minutes on TV. Miller had already started to remove his ankle braces.

"The referees made a decision and we have to live with it," Miller said.

Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, SS Jimmy Rollins and reliever J.C. Romero also attended the game. ... Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli watched part of the game from press row. He coached Cavs Delonte West and Dwayne Jones on Hawk Hill. ... Iguodala thanked the fans for coming before the game. "Even though it's Fan Appreciation Night, for the first time in a while, this won't be our last home game of the season. Enjoy the playoffs!" he said.