The Sixers had scored the first 20 of 24 points in the fourth quarter and led the San Antonio Spurs by seven with less than four minutes remaining.
They just couldn't close.
Doug Collins' club scored just three points in the final 5:40 to lose to the Spurs, 90-85, forfeiting an opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 30 and falling to 17-24 overall.
San Antonio led 49-35 at the half, shooting 50 percent from the floor and holding the Sixers to 35 percent. But the Sixers rallied and attacked in the third quarter with the same defensive tenacity that got them back into last Fridays game against the Raptors. That rally extended into the fourth quarter before it was stopped -- quickly and decisively.
The Sixers took their first lead of the night, 75-73, with 8:56 remaining in the game on a Spencer Hawes jumper from the left corner of the foul line. The lead would grow to seven at 82-75 with 5:40 on the clock, with the Sixers on an 20-4 run to start the fourth.
But the Spurs answered with nine straight points and a 15-3 run of their own over the final 3:47. They held the Sixers to just one field goal in the final 5:40.
Follow the leader
Tim Duncan scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Tony Parker scored 20 points and handed out eight assists.
Evan Turner had his highest scoring output since he poured in 22 points in a win over the Lakers earlier this month. Against the Spurs, Turner scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out seven assists.
Jrue Holiday had 15 points and eight assists. Thaddeus Young added 14, while Spencer Hawes and Nick Young were great off the bench, scoring 16 and 12, respectively.
The Sixers had nine turnovers through three quarters before turning the ball over seven times in the fourth.
Take a bow
During the first timeout of the game, the Sixers ran a video on the big screen featuring the many great highlights of Charles Barkleys eight years with the team. For his career, Barkley averaged 22 points and nearly 12 rebounds over 16 NBA seasons. His career field-goal percentage (54) ranks 20th best all-time in the NBA.
The Hall of Famer was at the Wells Fargo Center as an analyst calling the game for TNT with Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller. The fans gave Barkley a standing ovation at the conclusion of the video.
The Sixers will play at Milwaukee Tuesday night, marking the 12th time they've played back-to-back games this season. On the second night of those back-to-backs, the Sixers are 2-9 and have lost their last five in a row.
Monta Ellis is leading the Bucks in scoring with 19 points a night, but he is shooting just 40 percent on the season and just 24 percent from behind the arc. Brandon Jennings is averaging 18.6 points and 5.8 assists.
The Bucks are 21-18 overall, and 5-2 under interim head coach Jim Boylan.
E-mail Dei Lynam at email@example.com