Work in Sports
PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- With leading scorer Allen Iverson struggling with his shooting touch and starting point guard Eric Snow sidelined with an ankle injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were forced to outgrind the Charlotte Hornets.
The 76ers did an excellent job of shutting down the Hornets' front line, while theirs controlled the interior in a gritty 81-76 win that gave them a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Iverson struggled mightily in Monday's 108-98 overtime loss at Charlotte in Game Two, connecting on only 5-of-21 shots. He finished 9-of-27 from the field for 24 points tonight, but knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:55 remaining to give Philadelphia a 76-68 lead.
"Thats the makeup of our team," Iverson said. "When we get down, we dont make shots, we keep playing and we keep fighting.
We always feel like we have a chance regardless of what the score is, regardless of what time of the game it is.
"We always feel like we have a shot, we'll never give up. That's who we are. We're not the most talented team in the league. We don't have the All-Stars and the big player on this team. But we do have players that will play every game like it's their last. Everybody just contributes on this team. We are the team with the most heart in the league."
Snow was forced to watch Game Three from the bench after being diagnosed with a chip fracture of his right ankle that forced him to wear a fitted walking boot. But he seemed to be enjoying the view as Theo Ratliff, Matt Geiger, Tyrone Hill and George Lynch combined to frustrate Charlotte's big three of Anthony Mason, Derrick Coleman and Elden Campbell all night.
Charlotte's frontline combined for just five points in the first half and wound up with 26. Mason managed just one point on 0-of-7 shooting despite playing 45 minutes.
Game Four is here on Monday night.
"We just have to enjoy this, its a major win," Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. "Eric (Snow) is by far our most important player. In my mind, what he has to do on both ends of the court every single night is just incredible. We had a lot of guys step up and do a job in his absence. We will probably have to do it again. We have to have this kind of effort on Monday. And we have a lot of work to do between tonight and Monday because we have to get better organized."
Snow indicated before the game that he expected to be ready for Game Four, but Brown may not rush him back unless the Sixers are involved in an elimination game.
Ratliff had 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots in 41 minutes, while Geiger and Hill combined for 15 points and 12 boards. Lynch did not score in 25 minutes but grabbed eight boards and did his best to frustrate Mason.
"I thought Theo came up with some unbelievable plays, big hoops," Brown said. "He struggled a lot offensively in the third quarter but he kept plugging. We came up with a huge offensive rebound, after a foul. Tony forced up a shot with the clock coming down. Aaron tipped it. Allen got it. Even though we didn't get a shot we were able to take time off the clock. We have no chance of winning without our defense."
Aaron McKie started in the backcourt alongside Iverson and had 12 points, five assists and three rebounds in 38 minutes.
Eddie Jones had 18 points for Charlotte but did not score in the third quarter, when the Hornets squandered a seven-point lead and entered the final period tied at 57-57 after Philadelphia's Kevin Ollie made a free throw with 10 seconds remaining.
"We just started missing shots," Jones said. "We didn't rebound very well. They got too many second shots in the second half.
I'm upset about this because we were up seven points in the third and all of a sudden it fell apart."
Coleman finished with 11 points and 17 rebounds and Campbell and David Wesley scored 14 points apiece for Charlotte, which shot 35 percent (25-of-71) and was outrebounded, 48-40.
"We want to go back to Charlotte," Coleman said. "It is a must-win situation, but we accept that challenge. We have been able to come back all year. We have to come back Monday and get us a win."
The Sixers also shot 35 percent (27-of-78) and forced 17 turnovers. Both teams made 22 free throws in a game that featured nine lead changes and nine ties.
Toni Kukoc scored 12 points and helped the Sixers gather momentum in the third period by burying a pair of 3-pointers.
Trailing 53-46 with 4:33 left in the third quarter after Wesley hit an 18-footer, Philadelphia began to scratch and claw its way back into contention as Hill made a layup and Kukoc was good from 26 feet.
Campbell answered with a seven-footer and Coleman made two from the line to build the lead back to 57-51. But Geiger made a layup and Ollie hit four straight free throws to knot the game entering the fourth quarter.
Wesley made a driving layup to forge a 59-59 tie with nine minutes remaining, but Iverson answered with a layup and made a free throw to put Philadelphia ahead for good.
Ratliff and Kukoc followed with succesive layups, increasing the advantage to 66-59 with 6:02 to play. But Campbell made two free throws and Jones added three free to cut the deficit to 66-64 with 4:26 remaining.
But Kukoc nailed a 24-footer with 3:43 left and Ratliff had a tip-in and two free throws that helped the Sixers open a 73-66 advantage with 2:28 to go.
"Its frustrating," Wesley said. "We had our opportunities to win this game. We had to come up with rebounds, loose balls, and we didn't do that. They out hustled us to the boards and that was the game."
Campbell made two free throws, but Iverson swished a 27-footer over Jones with just under two minutes left, giving Philadelphia a seemingly safe eight-point lead.
But Campbell and Wesley combined to make four free throws and Campbell's runner in the lane cut the deficit to 76-74 with 16 seconds left. But McKie, Hill and Olie closed out the Hornets from the line, leaving Charlotte one loss away from elimination.
"We dont want to play any team in their house," Iverson said.
"We feel like we have the advantage being here. And we have to take advantage of it, because this is our crowd. When you see the electricity that was out there tonight, why would you want to waste that opportunity?" .