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Philly beats Pistons, surges ahead in East standings
Posted: Thursday April 22, 1999 11:27 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- A few short weeks ago, the Detroit Pistons were looking forward to having the homecourt advantage in the playoffs for the first time in years.
The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, were just hoping to sneak in and steal the eighth playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Things have changed in a hurry.
Philadelphia's 104-96 victory over Detroit Thursday night moved the 76ers into fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, a half-game ahead of Milwaukee and one game ahead of Detroit. The Sixers have won three straight, while the Pistons have lost three straight and sixth of seven.
"This is the great thing about playing in the Eastern Conference, it's a battle for every spot," said Allen Iverson, who scored 28 points. "We're in fifth now, but we could lose one game and slip to eighth. If we lose two, we could end up in 11th or something."
Detroit leads Charlotte by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"We've got to find five guys who are going to play desperate," Pistons coach Alvin Gentry said. "If it is five guards, we'll play them. If it is five big guys, we'll do that. We've got seven games left, and we're going to find guys somewhere on our roster that want to play hard and compete until the final buzzer."
"That's as good a defensive game as I've seen us play on Grant," Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. "Every guy that got onto the court for us gave us a big lift. I can't even begin to explain how happy I am."
Former Piston Aaron McKie played the toughest defense against Hill, but Gentry felt that was a bit of an illusion.
"Aaron is a good defender, and he did a good job on Grant," he said. "But when you've got three guys running at Grant to help him out, that makes it a lot easier to defend him. Can Aaron McKie defend Grant Hill one-on-one? I don't think anyone in the NBA can do that."
Brown had to watch the second half from the Philadelphia locker room. He was ejected by Steve Javie as the teams were leaving the court at halftime, finishing an argument that Iverson had started over two questionable calls.
"I should know better with him, and I'm really upset with myself," Brown said. "I didn't curse him once until after he ejected me. The first technical was for telling him that he shows me no respect. I guess that ejection shows me that I'm right."
Iverson said that even an official apology couldn't dampen the motivation that the Sixers took from Brown's ejection.
"He really got us going big time," he said. "The official told me that he looked at the calls after halftime, and that they should have gone my way, but it was too late by then. Our coach was already out of the game. And he did that for us -- I told the guys that it would be huge to win this one with coach in the back."
Detroit led 47-46 at the half, but the inspired Sixers hit their first five shots of the third period to take a 56-51 lead.
Larry Hughes scored 11 points in the first 4:29 of the fourth quarter to put Philadelphia up 83-76. Detroit closed to 87-82 after Jerome Williams set up consecutive baskets with offensive rebounds, but then the Sixers pulled away.
Notes: Detroit had won four of its previous five games against Philadelphia. ... The Pistons and 76ers play four times this season, the last three in a span of 13 days. ... Philadelphia assistant Randy Ayers coached the second half in Brown's absence.
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