Sooner or later, the ball was going to drop through the hoop during the fourth quarter for the 76ers. The odds were on the teams side after the last two losses in which fourth-quarter shooting issues cost the Sixers victories against a pair of decent teams.
In the loss to Houston just before the All-Star break, the Sixers did not even get off a shot in the final 2:07 of the game, and in a loss to the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sixers missed 11 straight shots in the waning moments and finished the game by going 1 for 13.
But in the 105-83 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at the Center, the Sixers made all sorts of shots down the stretch (see Lynam's Instant Replay). The Sixers went 12 for 22 in the fourth quarter, including 4 of 5 from beyond the three-point arc. In the final 5:25, the Sixers shot 7 for 8 to win going away.
In doing so, the 76ers snapped a four-game home losing streak and cracked the century mark for the first time since Jan. 23, which was 19 straight games in double digits. Certainly its a nice little coincidence that the Sixers snapped the 100-points plateau on the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlains 100-point game in Hershey.
Though it wasnt anything close to Chamberlain's big night, Lou Williams broke out of some shooting doldrums in the final frame by scoring 15 points on his way to a game-high 25. In doing so, Williams hit 5 of 8 in the last quarter and went 9 for 15 in the game. Considering he went into the break in a 15-for-53 shooting slump compounded by a 9-for-23 jag in the last two games, Sixers head coach Doug Collins was pleased to see his leading scorer finally come through.
Actually, according to Collins, the key to the game was that power forward Elton Brand played well in the third quarter. It was Brand in the third that opened the door for Williams big fourth, says Collins.
Brand finished the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds to get his second straight double-double. He got eight points and eight rebounds during the third quarter
They interviewed me on TV at the end of the third quarter and they asked me about Elton and I said, Look, Elton is as big a warrior as there is in the NBA. The man has two busted up hands and Im sure both of his legs are hurting and youre never going to hear a word from him, Collins said after the game. He got hit in the head tonight and he had a huge knot on his head and Andres Nocioni told him he had two rounds left to fight and he couldnt come out.
With Brand as the catalyst, the Sixers dominated the glass and held the Warriors to just two offensive rebounds in the second half. They also stopped Warriors top scorer Monta Ellis, who scored 12 points in the first quarter but finished the game with just 20 points. Ellis got six points during the second half.
Still, there is the matter of just six wins against teams with winning records. Certainly that mark will be put to the test when the Chicago Bulls come to the Center for a game on Sunday night.
Actually, Collins is pleased any time his team wins a game even if its against the lowly Warriors. At 22-15, the Sixers lead the Atlantic Division by three games and from a half-full perspective that means they are winning against the teams they are supposed to beat.
I want our guys to enjoy every win. Every win in this league is incredibly precious, Collins said.
Brand concurs with his coach. With the Bulls looming, followed by a back-to-back with the Bucks and then a visit from the Celtics next Wednesday, the Sixers have another tough week coming up. That made the game against the Warriors matter that much more.
Winning is tough. Its not easy, Brand said. It was imperative. We had to win this game.
Good teams beat bad teams.
In order to win a division and be considered one of the good teams, you have to beat those teams, Williams said. Then, you have to beat the really good teams. But were still a young team and were still pushing forward.
Sundays game against the Bulls will be much different than the cakewalk the Sixers had last month when Chicago came to town. In that one Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton were out with injuries and Derrick Rose was sick and did not play during the fourth quarter.
The Sixers will get the full Bulls' squad this time.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com.