Smith scores 34, Hawks fall short vs. Sixers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Elton Brand took over when the Philadelphia 76ers needed him most.
Brand scored 13 of his season-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead the 76ers to a 95-90 comeback win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
Andre Iguodala scored 18, and Brand had 10 rebounds to go with his 10-for-12 shooting.
Coming off a 21-point loss to lowly Washington on Friday that knocked them out of first place in the Atlantic Division and down to No. 7 in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers earned a hard-fought win against a team ahead of them in the standings.
“I was having nightmares of 3-13,” coach Doug Collins said, referring to the team’s awful start last year. “I told the guys I want to believe that’s not who we are, and they showed me tonight that’s not who they are.”
Brand made sure the Sixers halted their free-fall.
“It’s how you respond to a loss like that,” Brand said. “A lot of things could’ve been in jeopardy if we didn’t win this at home. We had to have this win.”
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 34 points, and Joe Johnson had 15. The Hawks have lost three of four after winning four straight. They were swept in the season series against Philadelphia, losing once at home and twice on the road.
“We haven’t been able to put any consistency together in any game against these guys,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “It’s almost like they are waiting for us to self-destruct. We seem to implode against this team.”
The 76ers pulled within a half-game of Boston in the Atlantic. They had been in first place — either alone or tied — since Dec. 28, but fell behind after losing six of nine. They’re seeking their first division title since Allen Iverson led them to the NBA Finals in 2001.
Brand, the team’s oldest starter, was the difference. He dominated after the Hawks took a 68-62 in the fourth quarter. Brand scored eight points during an 11-4 run that put Philadelphia up 73-72. He had two three-point plays in that stretch. He hit another short jumper to extend the lead to 77-73, then had two key assists after getting double-teamed inside. Brand fed Jrue Holiday for a 3-pointer that made it 80-75, then found Iguodala open for another 3 to increase the lead to 83-77.
“Elton wasn’t going to be denied,” Collins said.
Brand grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled driving to the basket and made a free throw. He got another offensive rebound off his miss on the second attempt, and Philadelphia led the rest of the way.
After the Hawks got within 88-86 on Marvin Williams’ 3, Brand nailed a 14-footer to give the Sixers a four-point cushion with 1:30 left.
“He looked like he was 23, 24 out there,” Evan Turner said of the 33-year-old Brand. “He hit big shots.”
The Sixers are 9-14 after a 20-9 start. They haven’t had a winning record since the 2004-05 season.
“We showed our fight,” Iguodala said. “People had their doubts, but we believe in ourselves.”
Atlanta is one game up on Philadelphia for the sixth spot in the East.
Down 39-34 in the second quarter, the Sixers finished with a 9-2 run to take a 43-41 lead into halftime. Iguodala hit a 3-pointer to start it off and ended the run with a turnaround jumper.
NOTES: The Sixers won the season series 3-0. … Hawks F Jerry Stackhouse missed the game because of a family emergency. … Hawks F Tracy McGrady didn’t make the trip because of an illness. … The Sixers have held opponents under 100 points in 21 of the past 22 games. … The Hawks are 20-5 when Smith scores 20 or more points. … Earlier in the day, the Flyers lost 4-3 to Ottawa in a shootout in a day-night, two-sport doubleheader at the Wells Fargo Center. … The Sixers have won three straight at home.