Spurs drop 76ers for fifth straight win
SAN ANTONIO -- There are some big things that the 76ers don't have. And, maybe one day, they'll get Allen Iverson -- or someone to give them more offensive punch. At least getting back Elton Brand will help.
But they do have length, and they do have athleticism. And they haven't given up despite a season-worst six-game losing streak.
Just sticking to it helped them to 12 steals and 10 blocked shots on Sunday night. But they couldn't stop the Spurs' 3-point game, and they couldn't keep rookie DeJuan Blair from another productive night in just a few minutes. San Antonio hit 10 3-pointers, and Blair gathered in seven offensive rebounds in 16 minutes of playing time in the Spurs' 97-89 victory over Philadelphia at AT&T Center.
The steals and blocked shots contributed to the Spurs committing 18 turnovers, but another 20-point night from Tim Duncan -- his sixth in the last seven games -- and a 49-15 advantage in bench scoring (that includes eight points from Manu Ginobili in his return after missing five games with a groin strain) put the Spurs over the top.
So the Spurs (9-6) won for a season-best fifth straight time despite the admirable qualities the Sixers may be showing in the face of adversity.
"Their athleticism, their length, their aggressiveness -- I think it's in the water in Philly," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They play hard from beginning to end, and they gave us a hell of a lot of trouble. It took us a whole half to play as focused and with the same edge that they were playing with.
"I have to give them credit. They're playing a lot better than their record indicates. But a lot of people helped us get through tonight."
Philadelphia (5-12) has lost a season-worst six straight and 10 of 12. The Sixers have now gone three games without Brand because of a sore right hamstring (he might be back for the Sixers' game Monday at Dallas). And point guard Louis Williams has just started his expected eight week absence due to his broken jaw by missing his third game.
The point guard situation, which may be addressed with Iverson's return to Philly, was exposed Sunday. Four starters scored in double figures, including 21 from Andre Iguodala. But the Sixers got just six from point guard sub Jrue Holiday -- plus just one assist and two turnovers.
The Sixers have to find something soon.
"We've got to keep people out of the middle, and I have to keep emphasizing to close out on the 3-point shooters," Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said.
Those are the two places to start. The 76ers had a 29-27 lead early in the second quarter before the Spurs' 3-point shooting and Blair got to them with a 14-2 run covering the next 3 ½ minutes.
Michael Finley got it started with a 3-pointer 1:45 into the second quarter. Then, almost everything else went through Blair.
After Finley's 3-pointer, the Sixers set up Jason Smith for a drive to the basket, which Blair stuffed back at Smith. Finley hit another 3 at the other end. Finley was 3-for-5 from 3-point territory. Matt Bonner added a 4-for-6 night from long distance.
Following Iguodala's fadeaway jumper that cut it to two, Bonner missed a 3 that was rebounded by Blair. He gathered it and dunked it back in. Blair then defended Rodney Carney's jumper and raced back to the basket after Carney got it off. He snapped the rebound from over the waiting hands of teammate Keith Bogans and started the Spurs on a trip up the floor that ended with another 3-pointer by Finley.
When the Spurs got the ball again, Tony Parker missed a short jumper that Blair rebounded. He missed the putback, but between Sixers Jason Kapono, Smith and Willie Green he got the loose ball again and put it back up and good despite being fouled by Smith. Blair made the free throw to end the run and give the Spurs a 41-31 lead.
"Coach [Popovich] just wants energy," Blair said. "Go after every board. Just bring energy. That's what I try to do.
"I'm just learning the whole game and how to be a pro. In college, I was the first or second option, and now I'm the fifth or sixth. It's something I have to get used to. I was just getting rebounds and putting them back up."
But before he returned to the bench and made way for Duncan two minutes later he had another blocked shot when Royal Ivey shook loose for what looked to be a clear layup and got another offensive rebound.
In his nine-minute appearance he got six offensive rebounds compared to the seven the Sixers gathered in the first 18 minutes of the game.
He finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.