76ers flash some defense in win over HawksNov 2, 2006 - 2:47 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Just when the Philadelphia 76ers looked like they were going to revisit a bad habit, they developed a good one.
Playing uncharacteristically solid defense in the fourth quarter, the 76ers held on for an 88-75 victory over the cold-shooting Atlanta Hawks in the season opener for both teams.
Allen Iverson scored 32 points for the Sixers, who missed the playoffs last season by giving away a handful of games with terrible team defense. Philadelphia allowed an average of 101.3 points and rarely came up with big defensive plays late in games.
The Sixers talked about making a stronger commitment to defense during the preseason. In improving to 39-19 in season openers, they showed it was more than talk, holding the Hawks scoreless for more than four minutes when it mattered most.
"Everything we've been saying as a team, about us being a better, smarter team and being a more aggressive team on defense, we meant it," Iverson said. "Tonight, first of all, I wanted us to show to ourselves that we could do it and then prove it to our fans."
"It's a step in the right direction," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I thought that our defense was excellent. Working through the preseason and training camp, a lot of things that we talked about came into play here."
Atlanta had narrowed a 23-point deficit to 81-71 with 6:07 to go on a jumper by Josh Childress, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The teams traded a series of empty possessions before Philadelphia's Samuel Dalembert made a free throw at the 5:07 mark.
Dalembert had a block and a rebound on consecutive defensive stands, prolonging the drought by the Hawks. Chris Webber made a jumper before Dalembert sealed matters with a dunk.
"Our defense with Sam in the middle was excellent," Cheeks said. "The reason why we won the game was on the defensive end. Our offense struggled a little bit, but our defense was the reason why we won the game."
"They were making shots, and in the fourth quarter, we had to pick it up," Dalembert said.
The Hawks helped the Sixers by settling for jump shots despite being in the penalty very early in the final period.
"We were in the penalty I think at the nine-minute mark and we're out there shooting jump shots instead of attacking the rim," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "That's when you have to put the clock in your favor. I know that they were open, they looked good, they tease the heck out of you, but that's not the right shot to take."
Andre Iguodala scored 15 points and Dalembert added 11, 11 rebounds and two blocks for the Sixers, who shot 42 percent (31-of-74) from the field and limited the Hawks to 33 percent (26-of-78).
"If we would have shot a bit better, it would have been a big blowout," Iverson said. "You still have to be satisfied with only giving up 75 points. We didn't play great offensively, but we did enough defensively to be able to win this basketball game."
Joe Johnson scored 25 points and Zaza Pachulia added 15 with 12 boards for the Hawks, who have lost eight straight season openers.
Iguodala and Dalembert were instrumental in Philadelphia's quick start. The Sixers came out flying, racing to a 17-2 lead in the first five-plus minutes. The run was highlighted by a 3-pointer by Iverson and a rare four-point play by Iguodala.
"It was so uncharacteristic of how we played in the exhibition in terms of our offense and our movement," Woodson said. "We just looked we were in quicksand. I don't know if we were a little tight, but we didn't do anything right offensively and our defense wasn't much better in the first quarter."
A jumper by Kyle Korver gave Philadelphia a 35-17 advantage early in the second period before Atlanta rallied within single digits. Iverson stopped that surge with a jumper and added six more points to help the Sixers rebuild the lead to 49-35 at halftime.
Struggling to find the right combination of players, the Hawks started slowly in the third quarter as well. A fast-break dunk by Philadelphia's Steven Hunter opened a 60-39 lead.
"I was wondering why we got so comfortable in the fourth quarter," Iguodala said. "The game wasn't over and we had to finish this one out. We had a lot of fun out there when we were winning, but you had to finish out the game before you start to relax."
The Hawks got back point guard Speedy Claxton, an offseason free agent signing who missed most of the preseason with a broken hand. But they were without second-year forward Marvin Williams, who also has a broken hand.
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