The defense is clicking. The rebounding is sporadic but good enough. The offense has made timely shots. The bench has contributed. And the Philadelphia 76ers...
PHILADELPHIA — The defense is clicking. The rebounding is sporadic but good enough. The offense has made timely shots. The bench has contributed.
And the Philadelphia 76ers are 3-0.
This is not a misprint.
The Sixers put the defensive clamps on in the second half Sunday, got consistent offense from Kyle Korver and Andre Iguodala along with Allen Iverson, and ran over the Heat, 107-98.
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The Heat, the defending NBA champion, played without All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal, who was declared out just before game time with a bruised left knee suffered in Friday night’s game against New Jersey.
His absence might have been a letdown for those in the crowd who wanted to see him, but the Sixers’ play had to have brightened their spirits. It sure boosted those of coach Maurice Cheeks.
“We’ve won three games, so you know that’s got to be exciting for us,” he said.
The difficult thing about explaining the win is where to start.
The Sixers’ defense, which gave up 57 points and allowed the Heat to shoot 59 percent in the first half, limited it to 41 points and 42 percent in the second half.
Korver continued his torrid shooting off the bench, connecting on his first five three-point attempts — a stretch that extended his streak to nine consecutive threes over two games — and finished with 22 points.
Iguodala, trying to shed his tag as a reluctant shooter, scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, six of them coming on a pair of three-point shots.
And Iverson exceeded 30 points for the third straight game, notching 31 to go with 13 assists.
“It’s just, I guess, believing in each other,” Iverson said. “We’ve been able to get the ball in guys’ hands that are making things happen. And it’s just playing defense. We’ve been getting stops when we need stops most, especially down the stretch of games. We’ve been scoring the basketball when we’ve needed to.”
The Sixers trailed by 57-50 at the half, and after Miami’s Antoine Walker knocked down a three-pointer for the first points of the third quarter to increase the deficit to 10, Cheeks called a timeout to address his players.
“He jumped on us,” Iverson said. “He said we weren’t ready to play the second half. We came out like we weren’t trying to win the basketball game. I think that motivated us when we got back on the floor.”
The Sixers wobbled for a while but regrouped and outscored the Heat by 25-9 in the final 7 minutes, 38 seconds of the third quarter to take a 78-73 lead. Korver scored 13 in the period, making all four of his field-goal attempts, including three beyond the arc.