Sixers lose fourth in a row

April 16, 2008 8:15:57 PM PDT
After beginning the season 18-30, the Philadelphia 76ers preferred to focus on the positives of recovering to get back to the playoffs for the first time after a two-year absence. Still, it's clear the Sixers have lost some of their mojo in the past few weeks. Losing four straight to close the regular season will do that.

Jason Richardson scored 29 points and the Charlotte Bobcats recovered from blowing a big lead to beat Philadelphia 115-109 on Wednesday night, sending the 76ers to the playoffs with seven losses in 10 games.

"We're still ahead of what people expected us to be," Andre Iguodala said.

True, and Iguodala led a furious comeback from a 23-point third-quarter deficit before the Sixers faded. It's also significant that Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks played his starters limited minutes ahead of Sunday's playoff opener at Detroit.

Iguodala, who scored 24 points and Willie Green, who had 27, were the lone starters to play more than 24 minutes. Center Samuel Dalembert played only 15 minutes.

But since clinching a playoff berth, Philadelphia slipped to the No. 7 seed and was locked into a first-round matchup with powerful Detroit beginning Sunday.

"We did not want to lose four consecutive games," Cheeks said. "But now this is a new season. Now we get to prepare for the Detroit Pistons and get ourselves going back the way we were."

There will be no postseason for the Bobcats, only numerous questions following a disappointing season that has left first-year coach Sam Vincent on the hot seat.

The Bobcats' season finale included a never-before-seen sight: Michael Jordan sitting courtside for a home game. It was the first time since Jordan bought into the Bobcats two seasons ago that he had been anywhere other than hidden in a luxury suite during a game.

Jordan, dressed in ripped jeans, sat next to majority owner Bob Johnson in the first quarter. Jordan then scooted over a seat in the second quarter so rapper Nelly, a minority investor in the team, could sit between them.

Across the floor was Vincent, whose fate will be determined by Jordan, who has the final say on all basketball decisions.

"I'm surely not going to walk away from my responsibilities," Vincent said. "Quitting is never been part of my game. I'll be in the office ready to work to make this team better until somebody tells me I shouldn't be doing that."

Vincent, who has a year left on his contract, led the Bobcats to one fewer win than Bernie Bickerstaff did a year ago, despite the addition of Richardson and a significantly higher payroll.

"You hear the rumors and you hear the things," Richardson said. "The owners have to make those decisions. MJ has to do that. ... You don't want to see something like that happen, but it's all part of the business."

Richardson was 3-of-7 on 3-pointers to finish with 243 this season, the fourth-most in NBA history. Charlotte shot 57 percent and had only eight turnovers.

While Vincent's future is uncertain, Emeka Okafor sounded like he wanted return. Okafor, the first draft pick in team history, had 24 points and nine rebounds in his final game before becoming a restricted free agent.

"My process is just to go into the summer, take some time off and come July get signed back with the Bobcats," Okafor said.

Down the hall in the Sixers' dressing room, there was optimism despite the rough finish that left the 76ers 40-42.

"At the beginning of the season, some guy said, 'I just want you to win 30 games this year. Just get to 30 and I'm good,"' Iguodala said. "And I'm laughing. 'Like 30, that's it? I'll get you 40."' He did, but now comes a visit to Detroit.

"We had a great season," guard Andre Miller said. "Hopefully it can carry over to the playoffs."

Notes: Ray Allen holds the NBA record for 3s in a season with 269 for Seattle in 2005-06. ... As expected, Bobcats F Gerald Wallace missed the final six games with a groin injury. ... There was debate on the bench about whether to take out Iguodala in the fourth quarter so he could rest. He stayed in and engineered a late comeback. "He got in such of a rhythm I just decided to keep him in the game," Cheeks said.