Bad teams find ways to lose; good teams find ways to win. And after the 76ers put up some wretched numbers in a 74-69 win over the Orlando Magic in front of 16,299 at Wells Fargo Center, it is starting to become clear that the Sixers are, indeed, good.
Their point total was the lowest they've posted all season, yet they won. They made just 30 of 80 shots (37.5 percent), yet they have 15 wins in 21 games.
And they were outscored, 27-16, in the fourth quarter - giving up 18 points in the final three minutes - yet they were able to win their third game in a row after losing two of three before that. The win ended a six-game losing streak to the Magic at home.
It was a teachable moment, so Sixers coach Doug Collins taught and his charges got the message.
"If you had told me before the game that we were going to score 75 points, shoot 37 percent [from the floor] and 52 percent from the line, I would have not bet on us winning that game tonight," Collins said. "So our defense won that game for us tonight."
It would be impossible to bicker with him.
With their offense downright offensive in the first half - they scored just 37 points and led by four points at halftime - they shook off their malaise in the third quarter and stifled the Magic, holding them to just nine points - the fewest any team has scored against the Sixers in any quarter this season - to lead by 19 points, 68-49, at the end of the third quarter.
But they shut down late in the fourth quarter, said Collins.
"It's human nature and I wasn't happy about it," Collins said. "We talked about it, and they got the message. They understand that we can't let teams off the hook like that. You have to keep on playing, keep on defending, making your free throws."
Coming off a triple-double, the Sixers' Andre Iguodala was superb again, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Tony Battie scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Elton Brand had eight points and seven rebounds.
Orlando center Dwight Howard finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Ryan Anderson finished with 14 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.
The Sixers played once again without injured center Spencer Hawes. And Orlando was without its starting backcourt of Jameer Nelson (concussion-like symptoms) and Jason Richardson.
But they almost let it slip away late, allowing their 68-49 advantage with 5 minutes, 23 seconds to play in the game dwindle to 72-66 with 19.9 seconds left.
"Yeah, we're happy for the win but at the end of the day playing like that is going to cost us against a really good team," Brand said. "Missing free throws, not executing on defense, and letting guys get wide open threes. We're not going to be up 19 all the time. So when we are in those dog fights we need to find a way to execute and win. It's good practice for us."
Iguodala agreed. He was happy that the Sixers got the win, and he said he thought Collins, who complimented their defense but castigated it as well, delivered the appropriate message.
"We don't want that," Iguodala said of the Magic's late flurry. "We want to get those rebounds and sustain a lead. It's better to get that lesson now, go into practice, work on it, shoot some free throws and do all of those things that we need to do in games down the road."