Sixers hold on to get past Celtics

The 76ers and the Boston Celtics played for the 400th time last night, and one could safely suggest that this game might have ranked somewhere around the bottom 10 for efficiency and excitement.

But someone had to be in front at the final buzzer, and it was the Sixers picking up series win No. 173 with an 88-82 victory before an announced crowd of 16,213 at the Wachovia Center.

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Sixers' Samuel Dalembart battles Boston's Kendrick Perkins for control of a rebound in the first half. The Sixers held off a Celtics charge to win their third in four games. Kyle Korver scored 26 points.

This was ugly. The Sixers blew a 15-point second-half lead. They committed a season-high 24 turnovers, including five offensive fouls and seven traveling violations. They missed 12 free throws and shot only 42.6 percent from the field.

For the coach of a team that has struggled to find wins this season, even Maurice Cheeks was unimpressed.

"We didn't play particularly well, but we were able to win the game," he said. "I think that's the plus side of it, even though we did not play our best game. Certainly, a few months ago, we would have taken this, but now we come to expect a little more from ourselves. So we would not like to have games like this, but we'll take the win."

Asked if the Sixers took anything out of last night's game, Andre Iguodala replied, "From this game? No, we don't."

The Celtics were a little worse but at least they had an excuse. Leading scorer Paul Pierce sat out with a sore left elbow. With five other injured players sidelined, they dressed just nine players - eight of whom were between the ages of 21 and 23.

Kyle Korver, the Sixers' top scorer with 26 points, said his team wasn't good enough to have let down just because Pierce didn't play.

"It's not like we're some high seed in the playoffs and we can say, 'Oh they don't have a big player, and we'll cruise tonight,' " Korver said. "We've got 29 wins. We can't do that. I hope that wasn't our mentality."

Still, the Celtics fell behind by 16 during an 11-point second quarter - the fewest points scored by a Sixers opponent in one quarter all season. They trailed, 67-52, with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the third and appeared ready to glide through the fourth quarter and go home.

But that didn't happen. The Sixers helped by missing 12 consecutive shots and going 6:54 without a field goal. The Celtics capitalized, outscoring them by 18-3 over that time and tying the game, 70-70, on two free throws by Leon Powe with 7:19 to play.

Two former Big Five stars, Delonte West of St. Joseph's and Allan Ray of Villanova, scored five points apiece in the Boston rally.

Rookie Rodney Carney ended the Sixers' drought on a three-point basket with 7:03 left to play. The Celtics tied it again at 73, but Korver's three-ball and four points by Iguodala sparked a 10-2 run that put the Sixers up, 83-75, with 2:25 remaining.

The Sixers put away their third victory in four games by scoring on four straight possessions, including a basket by Samuel Dalembert that gave them an 87-78 lead with 1:33 to play.

Iguodala, who attempted 17 free throws, tying a season high, but made just 11, had 23 points and a game-high 12 assists. Dalembert contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds but turned the ball over eight times.

"Sometimes you hesitate because there's so much going on in your mind," Dalembert said. "Suddenly, I'm hesitating and throwing the ball away. I have two or three turnovers, and then I end up with eight for the game. It's like getting back into the mind-set where I'm going for one thing and be more decisive in what I'm doing."

The Sixers played without Willie Green, who missed his second straight game with a strained right knee. They welcomed back Joe Smith, who had spent three days away from the team to attend to a personal matter. Smith finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

Al Jefferson led the Celtics with 20 points and West added 16.

The Sixers converted just 24 of 36 free throws. Korver, the NBA's leading foul shooter who recently had a streak of 47 makes in a row, missed two.

"We missed layups and free throws; I missed layups and free throws," Korver said. "I don't know if it was a lack of concentration. I don't know what it was. For whatever reason, we didn't finish plays, didn't make free throws, committed some bad turnovers. Hopefully we're saving it for tomorrow night."

The Sixers play at New Jersey tonight against the Nets, who are battling for a playoff spot.


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.