Samuel Dalembert

had a hair-raising experience he hoped would loosen up and motivate the 76ers.

The motivation part didn't work out so well, because the Sixers lost, 98-81, to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, the day Dalembert unveiled his Mohawk haircut.

So now Dalembert lacks some hair and the Sixers lack any margin for error. Trailing the best-of-seven series by three games to two, they face elimination tonight in Game 6 at the Wachovia Center. The game begins at 8 o'clock.

The haircut "is just part of my personality," Dalembert said after yesterday's practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "If we would have won, they would have talked about the haircut bringing us luck."

The players seemed to get a kick out of his new do, which is what Dalembert was looking for.

"It was the kind of thing to kind of motivate the guys and get them ready," he said. "They were excited about it and excited to play, and us losing had nothing to do with the haircut."

Dalembert seemed surprised that his new look had drawn so much attention.

"People pay attention no matter what you do outside your character," he said. "If it was a distraction for the team, I'm sorry, but I don't think it was. All my teammates were happy to see it."

The Mohawk may take some attention away from the way Dalembert has played in the series.

He has had only one dominant game, contributing 22 points and 16 rebounds in a 95-75 win in Game 3.

For the series, he is averaging 9.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.0 blocked shots while being outplayed by Detroit's Rasheed Wallace, the former Simon Gratz High star. Wallace is averaging 16.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.0 blocks.

Ticket update

A 76ers official said late yesterday afternoon that the advance sale for tonight's game was 12,500.

Pistons' mind-set

The Sixers are playing an elimination game tonight, but the Pistons also are approaching it as one.

"We've got to treat that game like a Game 7," guard Richard Hamilton said after Tuesday's win. "We have to come out like tonight - hitting first, being aggressive, and taking it to the basket."

Hamilton, the former Coatesville High star, is Detroit's leading scorer in the series, averaging 18.8 points.

If the Sixers force a seventh game, it will be played at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

If the Pistons win the series tonight, they will play Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal at home against Orlando at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

No other options

The Sixers have no choice but to play Game 6 as if it were Game 7.

"It's in the back of our minds that this could be it," said guard Willie Green, a Detroit native averaging 9.6 points in the series. "Our backs are against the wall and we're playing a tough team, and we have to make it into a scrappy game."