The 76ers needed to sweat and struggle and even go to overtime against one of only two NBA teams with a record worse than theirs. But when you've had to wait nearly four months to match a season highlight, what's an extra five minutes?
The Sixers finally achieved the seemingly impossible last night when Kyle Korver, Joe Smith and Andre Miller each scored four points in overtime to lead their team to a 117-112 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and gain their third consecutive victory.
For the Sixers, who played in front of a crowd of 16,314 at the Wachovia Center, it marked the first time they had won three in a row since Nov. 5, when they defeated Miami to start the season 3-0.
Of course, things haven't gone all that well for the Sixers since that date - they lost 12 in a row and 19 of 21 after that start - but this is a team that seems to be on the rise and gaining in confidence.
"I thought we had a lot of guys making plays at the end," said Korver, who matched Andre Iguodala for team-high honors with 27 points. "It wasn't just one guy. We had a lot of guys make plays, and that's a really good sign. Hopefully, it's something to build on."
The Sixers, who upset the Phoenix Suns two nights before, came out flat in the first half, negating 59 percent shooting with 12 turnovers and a 14-2 disadvantage in second-chance points to trail by 48-45. They finally picked it up in the second half, but the Grizzlies hung in; the game saw 24 lead changes and 20 ties.
The Sixers looked as if they might be home free after Iguodala's reverse layup with 19.8 seconds left in regulation gave them a 103-100 lead. But Mike Miller, who entered the game leading the NBA with 174 three-point baskets, drained a three-ball with 4.9 seconds remaining to force OT.
The Sixers stayed strong in the extra period. From a 105-105 tie, they took the lead for good on Korver's two free throws with 2 minutes, 17 seconds to play. The Grizzlies were held to 3-of-9 shooting in the extra period.
The Sixers had their hands full dealing with 7-foot Memphis center Pau Gasol, who finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocked shots. To make matters worse, Samuel Dalembert picked up his fifth personal foul with 6:52 left in regulation, but he played all but 4.9 seconds the rest of the way.
"Pau Gasol is one of the best post men in the game," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said, "so when you post him, you have to decide whether or not you're going to double him or you're going to allow them to get three-point shots. A couple of times when we thought we had them put away, we doubled and they hit some threes."
But the three-ball didn't hurt the Sixers that much. The Grizzlies, who came in as the third-leading three-point-shooting team in the league, made just 1 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first three quarters and finished 6 of 24.
The Sixers, meanwhile, had a host of stars. Smith had a season-high 18 points to go with 12 boards. Willie Green added 16 points, and Andre Miller had 11 points and 12 assists.
"Whether you're coming off the bench or starting, the game is won or lost in the fourth quarter," said Smith, who played the entire fourth quarter and overtime. "It's good to know Coach Cheeks has the confidence in me to keep me in there. Hopefully, I can make the right decisions on the floor, and my experience through the years can help us win the game."
The Sixers go for the season-high fourth win in succession tomorrow night at home against the New Jersey Nets.
"We'll wait on Sunday," Cheeks said. "Right now, we'll enjoy this one."
Lowry out for season. Former Villanova star Kyle Lowry, a rookie with the Grizzlies, will not play anymore this season as his broken left wrist heals slowly.
"It's been a long process," Lowry said before the game. "But I won't be back this year - not even close. I wanted to get back earlier, but it just hasn't healed enough. It's killing me not being able to play. It's been a long season."
Lowry, who played two years at Villanova before being taken with the 24th pick in the first round, has been out since Nov. 24 after fracturing three bones in the wrist. He underwent surgery and had a screw inserted to help the healing process.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com.