7:00 PM ET, February 28, 2007
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phoenix Suns' drive toward a perfect road record against the East came to an unexpected end.
Andre Iguodala scored 24 points, Willie Green had 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers never trailed Wednesday night in a 99-94 win over the Phoenix Suns, who lost on the road to an Eastern Conference team for the first time this season.
The 76ers defeated Phoenix 99-94 jumping out to a 10-0 lead before fending off a game-tying, fourth-quarter surge by the visitors. The Suns had held a lead in each of their previous games this season, as had the Rockets, before Wednesday's loss to the Raptors (but more on that later). That leaves San Antonio as the only NBA team to have a lead in every one of its games this season.
Philadelphia was 18-for-18 from the foul line, becoming the third NBA team this season to make at least that many free throws in a game without a miss. (Dallas was 24-for-24 on Nov. 14 and Washington went 18-for-18 on Feb. 11.) It was the Sixers' "most perfect" game from the charity strip since they hit all 19 of their free throws in a win at Orlando on April 14, 2002.
Phoenix suffered its first, and only, road loss against an Eastern Conference team in its last such game of the season, finishing with a 14-1 interconference road record, the best in NBA history. The previous NBA record was an 11-1 mark by the 1982-83 Sixers.
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"We didn't want them to get the streak against us," Iguodala said.
The Suns won their first 14 on the road against the East, and needed one more victory against the lowly 76ers to become the first team to sweep its road games against the opposite conference. It was also the first time the Suns failed to even hold a lead.
"It's a nice accomplishment, but we expect to win," said Steve Nash, who rolled his ankle and scored 23 points.
Amare Stoudemire had 31 points and 14 rebounds, and Raja Bell added 13 points. Marion sat out his first game of the season because of a bruised right hand and bruised left quadriceps suffered against Indiana on Tuesday night. Diaw had back spasms. Nash said his ankle was fine.
"Obviously we missed Marion. We missed Diaw, too," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "The focus wasn't there and we got a little sloppy at the end."
So the Suns matched the only other team that finished with one road loss against the opposite conference: The 1982-83 Sixers who went on to win the NBA championship. And the star point guard on that title team? Current Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks.
"Eastern Conference pride you know?" Kyle Korver said, jokingly. "Whatever's left of it."
The Sixers came out in the first playing more like Phoenix, surprising the Suns with one of their highest-scoring quarters of the season (35). True, these Suns aren't known for tight D, but their top-ranked offense scores in bunches and sometimes rallies to put away teams.
This wasn't one of those games.
Leandro Barbosa tried his best to spoil a rare Philly celebration, though. His 3-pointer made it 84-all with 4:27 left, the first time Phoenix tied the score all game. Andre Miller hit a go-ahead jumper from the right wing and Korver followed with a pair of free throws.
Barbosa buried another 3, only for Iguodala to come right back down and sink one of his own, bringing the fans in one of the largest crowds of the last few months to their feet.
Samuel Dalembert sealed the win with a wild, desperation fadeaway jumper. The shot, much like the win, was certainly out of character for the Sixers.
"They tied the game, but we stayed strong," Cheeks said. "We talked about progress all year long and this is one of those things we were looking for."
Dalembert had 12 rebounds and the Sixers won the battle of the boards, 50-37. The Sixers also made all 18 free throws.
"We're coming along," Dalembert said. "A lot of people didn't have faith in us."
With good reason. The Sixers are the third-worst team in the NBA.
Certainly it helped the Sixers that the Suns were without two key cogs in Diaw and Marion. And the Suns did rally from 18 points down in the third quarter to win at Indiana only a night earlier. But that didn't keep the Sixers from enjoying just their seventh win against the West.
Nash, who left briefly in the first half to get a sore ankle taped, sank a 3 and made a layup late in the third that brought the Suns within one. Instead of folding, the Sixers went on a 10-0 run that stretched into the fourth quarter and pushed the lead back to 11.
Korver surprised everyone with a fast-break dunk midway through the fourth for an 80-69 lead. Nash trimmed the lead to 82-81 and Barbosa would soon hit the tying 3.
Not long after that, the Suns' perfect road season against the East was over.
"It's a record we're proud of, but we just ran out of luck tonight," D'Antoni said.
Green started for injured rookie Rodney Carney (shoulder). Carney will have an MRI on Thursday. ... Barbosa started in place of Marion. ... The Sixers, who scored the first 10 points, led wire-to-wire in two other wins this season. ..
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-81 (.444)||38-87 (.437)|
|3PM-3PA||10-26 (.385)||5-7 (.714)|
|FTM-FTA||12-14 (.857)||18-18 (1.000)|
|Fast Break Points||9||12|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||19 (0/0)|