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Williams, Sixers down fading Nets

Apr 2, 2008 - 4:04 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- After riding their starters for three quarters, the Philadelphia 76ers were carried down the stretch by their emerging bench.

Louis Williams scored seven points in a span of 80 seconds after Rodney Carney buried a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to lift the 76ers to a 108-99 victory over the fading New Jersey Nets on Tuesday.

"I've always enjoyed the fourth quarter, that's when everybody clamps down in the game, and it gets really intense and it gets exciting," Williams said.

Andre Miller had 24 points and 11 assists and Andre Iguodala added 17 and 10 as Philadelphia avoided a three-game losing streak and won for the 20th time in its last 27 games.

"You could see that the two Andres just did not want to come out of the game and the passion we played with was great," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Lou and Rodney hit big shots down the stretch and, with the magnitude of the games right now, we are benefiting from the experience they have gained this season."

"It's good for all of us to get quality time down the stretch in the fourth quarter of games," Williams said of the 76ers' young bench. "Playoff time, I'm sure it will be great for everybody for us to be able to grow."

Willie Green scored 16 points and Samuel Dalembert collected 15, 13 rebounds and five blocks for the Sixers (38-37), who moved within one-half game of Toronto (38-36) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

"We had to (win)," Miller said. "We talked about it and we can't worry about what other teams are doing. We had our game plan, and it's just about execution and getting tough."

They are 3 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks (34-40) with seven games remaining as they pursue their first playoff berth since the 2004-05 season.

Meanwhile, playoff hopes are fading fast for the Nets (31-44), who fell 3 1/2 games behind the Hawks and play five of their final seven games on the road.

Vince Carter scored 29 points and Devin Harris added 22 for New Jersey, which has lost five of its last seven games, including three in a row.

"We have to think we have an opportunity regardless of how many games we have left," Carter said. "We have to find a way."

Philadelphia's bench was quiet for the first three quarters but came to life after New Jersey pulled within 80-79 with 9:41 remaining. Jason Smith sank two free throws and Thaddeus Young followed with a three-point play before Carney buried a wide-open 3-pointer at 8:28 for an 88-79 cushion.

Carney added another 3-pointer at 6:35 and Williams single-handedly put away the game after Carter nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Sixers' lead to 93-91 at 4:11.

Williams answered with a 3-pointer and, after a dunk by Josh Boone, made a layup and a jumper 32 seconds apart for a 98-93 cushion with 2:28 to go. Dalembert followed with a dunk, and Miller sealed the victory with four free throws in the final minute.

"I was staying patient, sitting in the corner, and I guess they forgot about me," Williams said. "I was able to make open shots and stretch the lead a little bit more."

Little defense was played by either team as the Sixers shot 50 percent (40-of-80) from the floor and scored 46 points in the paint. The Nets shot 49 percent (41-of-84) percent overall and scored 56 points inside but their attack slowed considerably in the second half.

"Nobody really played defense in this game," Miller said. "It was back-and-forth, but those young guys came in and hit three or four huge shots."

The teams combined to make 27-of-39 shots in a back-and-forth opening period, and both were shooting 55 percent heading into halftime with the score tied 57-57.

Philadelphia took the lead for good with a 12-4 run late in the third led by Miller, who nailed a jumper and handed out four assists during the stretch, which was capped by a three-point play from Dalembert.

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