The 76ers have almost been forgotten by a city whipped into a World Series frenzy.
Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand gave a reminder why they might be worth watching long after fans have put away the Phillies T-shirts for the winter.
Iguodala scored 19 points, Brand had 17 and the Philadelphia 76ers bounced back from a dismal opener to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 99-86 on Friday night.
Article continues below ...
Samuel Dalembert had 10 points and 12 rebounds to help the Sixers look sharp in their home opener. The Sixers turned around an atrocious performance in their debut against the Magic that saw them trail by as many as 31 points.
“It was a great bounce-back game from that embarrassing Orlando loss,” Brand said.
All the hype in Philly has been directed toward the Phillies-Yankees World Series. Throw in the Giants-Eagles NFL game across the street on Sunday, and both ends of the New Jersey Turnpike are ready to rumble.
Don’t forget, the Sixers are in New York to play the Knicks on Saturday night to make it a weekend full of the NY-Philly rivalry.
“I can’t stand those guys right now, all three of those teams,” said Brand, who was raised in Westchester, N.Y. “It’s a huge weekend, especially with football, baseball. Right now, ours doesn’t have much importance, but it’s still a rivalry.”
Michael Redd and 20-year-old rookie guard Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 17 points each. Jennings, who never played college ball, narrowly missed a triple-double with nine assists and nine rebounds for the Bucks -the last NBA team to start the season.
“I tried to push the tempo, trying to do what I could to help the team win,” Jennings said. “If we’d won, I’d be a lot happier. I did feel pretty good out there.”
The Bucks, who have finished last in the Central Division all five seasons since the NBA’s realignment, blew a 47-41 halftime lead, then sliced Philadelphia’s lead to five points late in the fourth.
Jason Kapono, acquired from Toronto to give the Sixers the long-range boost the worst 3-point shooting team in the league needed, nailed a 3 and Iguodala sank a 17-footer during a 10-0 run that helped the Sixers start to creep away.
Iguodala picked up his game after a three-basket, eight-point clunker against the Magic. Coach Eddie Jordan said before the game he wasn’t going to be concerned with one bad outing. He had to like the effort in this victory.
Brand gave fans a reason to care, grabbing rebounds and scoring key baskets in a third-quarter comeback.
Brand wasn’t $80 million good, but it was a chance to show the home fans he can do more than look good in a suit on the bench. He was all over the court in the third quarter, disrupting the Bucks and wiping out their halftime lead.
“He’s banging, he’s fighting in there, he’s in the trenches,” Jordan said. “When you feel like things are going your way, it sort of builds your momentum.”
Brand’s steal led to him making two free throws. He made a jumper that gave the Sixers their first lead of the second half, then hit a pretty fade that tied the game after the Bucks briefly went ahead.
Lou Williams put the Sixers ahead for good at 56-55 with two free throws. The Sixers went 19 of 20 from the line in the quarter.
The Bucks played without guard Carlos Delfino, suspended one game for his role in an altercation during a preseason game.
The Sixers only tinkered with their roster in the offseason — point guard Andre Miller was the biggest defection — but it’s a whole new atmosphere at the Wachovia Center. Yes, even with discounted $10 upper level tickets available, it was still a mediocre crowd at the opener in a city with a dose of World Series madness. But the organization took action off the results of a fan survey that proved there was too much unwanted noise during games.
The Sixers quit blasting rap and dance music through the arena during play. The in-game entertainment was scaled back. Their public address announcer, who used to gratingly yell “Iguo-dala-dala-dala-dala!” after one of his baskets, now says the name in concise fashion.
What a welcome and quickly noticeable change.
NOTES: Iguodala addressed the crowd before the game and told them the Sixers will “continue to strive for that No. 1 goal and that’s to win the championship.” … One fan with a courtside seat stormed over to security to complain because a cameraman was blocking his view. “I paid $1,800 for that seat!” he said.