76ers Stifle Magic to Win Again Without A.I.
Philadelphia 89, Orlando 81
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 29 (Ticker) -- The Philadelphia 76ers proved once again that a team can overcome the loss of a superstar with strong defense.
Chris Webber scored 18 points and dished out eight assists as the 76ers delivered another uncharacteristically strong defensive performance en route to an 89-81 victory over the Orlando Magic.
But with six-time All-Star Allen Iverson sidelined with a sprained left ankle, the 76ers have been forced to buckle down on the defensive end. They have allowed a total of just 157 points in a pair of victories without Iverson.
"We all just pulled together and believed in each other's skills," Webber said. "That's it. We were moving around defensively. Guys really pressured the ball and trusted each other."
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks stressed the importance of his squad's balanced effort to compensate for the temporary loss of Iverson.
"If you're missing a player like Allen, you have to overcompensate," Cheeks said. "I think everyone knew they had to step up and do a little bit more. You're not going to replace a guy like Allen, who scores 33-34 points a game, but you can replace him at other areas when you get production from everyone and you can see the production because of the balanced scoring."
That production has come from swingman John Salmons, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half Sunday and had 18 points in Philadelphia's 91-76 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Samuel Dalembert added 15, eight rebounds and four blocks for Philadelphia, which has won five of its last six.
"Our bench came really strong," said Dalembert, who has averaged 11.1 points and 10.8 rebounds over his last 14 games. "Guys were ready the last couple of games."
With the score tied at 75-75, the Sixers reeled off nine consecutive points over a span of four minutes late in the fourth quarter to take control.
Andre Iguodala converted a free throw to give Philadelphia the lead for good with 3:01 to play but missed his second attempt. However, Webber grabbed the offensive rebound and buried a short jumper 15 seconds later to push the lead to 78-75.
Kevin Ollie made a pair of free throws, Webber knocked down another jumper and Iguodala sank another free throw over the next 90 seconds, and Philadelphia played stifling defense to build an 83-75 advantage with a minute to play.
Dalembert outplayed Orlando second-year forward Dwight Howard and made two key blocks down the stretch to spark Philadelphia's inspired defensive play.
"He is really learning how to keep his poise and I am going to stay on him about keeping his poise," Webber said of Dalembert, who was saddled with early foul trouble. "It is so frustrating to get two early fouls. ... But when you see those blocks in the fourth quarter, man, that guy can change the game."
Steve Francis had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to record his seventh career triple-double for the Magic, who had their seven-game home winning streak snapped.
"This should have been a game where everybody was hungry to win," Francis said. "It was at home, we had a streak going. (It was) not just a streak, but for us to show that we've matured and that we're able to win games that we should win."
Orlando managed just 36 points after halftime and went 5-of-18 from the floor in the final quarter.
"I thought from top to bottom it was, from every individual, our worst game of the year," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "This was definitely our worst loss of the season, and it's very bitter to me simply for one reason - that we couldn't come into a game focused because the other team had their best player out."
The Magic had just 21 free-throw attempts while sending the Sixers to the line 38 times.
"I thought we just went through the motions tonight," Hill said. "It was disgusting to watch."