Doug Collins' Sixers continue to mature by the day.
That sound you heard shortly after 9:00 PM Eastern Friday night was the collective groan of diehard Sixers' fans.
After leading by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Sixers found themselves losing 94-92 to the Milwaukee Bucks with less than a minute to go in the 4th quarter.
It was a familiar scene, to be sure. But the ending was one that we hadn't seen this season.
Lou Williams took on the starring role last night, hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 43.8 seconds to go to give the Sixers the lead. Two defensive stops later, the Sixers found themselves on the right side of a 95-94 victory Friday night over the visiting Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center.
While Williams was clearly the offensive star with his game-high 25 points off of the bench, the play of Andre Iguodala clearly shifted the balance in favor of the home team. In just his second game after missing two weeks with a nagging right Achilles' injury, Iguodala was stellar on both ends of the floor.
"When he's right, he does so many things for us," said Sixers' coach Doug Collins, referring to Iguodala. "So I was incredibly proud of him tonight."
On offense, he filled the stat sheet with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. However, his biggest contribution was his exceptional defense on the Bucks' Corey Maggette as Milwaukee took their best swings at the Sixers in the game's final moments.
The game shouldn't have been that close. The Sixers shot a season-high 62.5 percent from the field in the first half, and ripped off a 23-6 run that spanned much of the first two quarters. However, sloppy play in the second quarter - a period in which they allowed 11 points off of turnovers - resulted in a slim 6-point halftime lead.
"The only disappointment I had tonight was I thought we self-destructed in a lot of situations," said Collins, referring in part to the meltdown just before intermission. "Our end of quarter play was terrible."
That end of quarter play, combined with Milwaukee's aggressiveness on the glass - the Bucks pulled down 11 offensive rebounds - led to the final margin being far slimmer than it should have been. Fortunately, the Sixers were able to tighten the screws on defense at the end to pull out the win.
The 76ers won for the first time in eight games this season when the final margin was 4 points or less. For a team that seemingly invents new ways to give away games, last night was definitely a confidence booster.
"It was the first time we got a win in a situation where we lost the lead late," said Iguodala. "So it was good for morale reasons for guys to get a win like that."
Milwaukee was without star point guard Brandon Jennings, who is currently nursing a broken foot. 5-5 PG Earl Boykins did his best Jennings impersonation last night, scoring 8 points and dishing out 11 assists off of the bench. But it wasn't enough against a team that has had the Bucks number recently.
The Sixers have been victorious in 9 of their last 11 meetings with Milwaukee. The last time these two teams met on November 19, Philadelphia was impressive in a 90-79 victory, forcing the Bucks to shoot only 33.8 percent from the field. Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams led the charge, combining to score 42 points off of the bench.
That win two months ago brought the Sixers record to 3-10. The recent stretch of good play has the team in a much better place than they were back then.
"No moral victories. We had to have this win," said Williams, following the game. "I don't sleep well at night with those circumstances."