THIS, IN THE world of the 76ers, is what havoc looks like.
At the same time, to some degree, this was also the face of desperation.
Reggie Evans, Lou Williams and Marreese Speights were primarily responsible for the havoc that became necessary to earn a 93-88 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks last night at the Wachovia Center. The relentless, aggressive way they played was the way new coach Tony DiLeo would like them to play all the time, but in this case it was their only chance.
That was because power forward Elton Brand went out with 7:23 remaining in the third quarter with a dislocated right shoulder. He underwent X-rays in the Wachovia Center, then was taken elsewhere for an MRI examination.
Brand crashed to the floor when he was pump-faked into the air by the Bucks' Luc Mbah a Moute, went down hard on his right shoulder and rolled over.
"He tried to take a hard foul," Williams said. "I thought he was all right when he started walking back, but then I saw his shoulder bone up a little."
It was not immediately known how much time Brand would miss.
If Brand, who signed a 5-year, $79.8 million contract with the Sixers as an unrestricted free agent in the summer, is out for an extended period, DiLeo said "That would be a big blow."
"Usually, teams can compensate for a short amount of time, but then it usually catches up to teams," said DiLeo, who is 2-0 since succeeding the fired Maurice Cheeks. "That would be a big blow, especially [because] we want him out on the court so we can all get on the same page and integrate him together with the team."
The Sixers compensated last night with Evans injecting a major portion of energy, taking game highs of nine rebounds - five offensive - in 17:45. Williams scored a season-high 25 points, matching his career high, and rookie center Speights added a season-high 12 points.
"You always know what you're going to get from Reggie," DiLeo said. "He turned things around. I told the team that we want to try and get a second team with an identity . . . Reggie's a big part of that. Definitely, Reggie had a major, major impact on this game."
Evans, Williams and Speights, plus Thaddeus Young, accounted for 25 of the team's 26 points in the fourth quarter. Overall, the four subs outscored the starters, 49-44. With Willie Green doing yeoman defensive work against Bucks guard Michael Redd (2-for-13, six points) and Andre Iguodala having the primary responsibility against Richard Jefferson (4-for-9, 11 points), the Sixers left the visitors with two field goals in their final 27 possessions; that included misses on Milwaukee's first eight shots in the final period, in which they finished 2-for-18.
The face of havoc also showed in the Sixers outscoring the Bucks, 39-25, after Brand went out.
"We just understood what we needed to do to get a win,'' said Iguodala, who struggled offensively, shooting 2-for-14 from the floor, but still contributing seven assists and six rebounds. "That was a real big victory because we had to take the game. It wasn't a blowout; we had to do the right things down the stretch, take care of the ball. Every possession counted.
"When a guy goes out, other guys understand they have to step up to pick up the slack. I couldn't make shots, but the beauty of a game like this is, I had to step up at the other end. It was good for me not to score and still win the game the way we won. The crowd was getting on me; that was funny. They told me to stop shooting, to pass. You know how they can get, looking for somebody to kick around. We actually won the game. We had to go get it."
DiLeo termed this "a gutty win."
"Things didn't go smoothly, especially the first three quarters [when the Bucks led by as many as 10 points]; we struggled both offensively and defensively," DiLeo said. "In the fourth quarter, we were much more active; our rotations on defense were much better, we got to push the ball a little more . . . that was more indicative of the way we would like to play."
One team's havoc was another team's misery. The Sixers were down 73-63 late in the third quarter and 73-67 entering the fourth, then scored 21 of the next 28 points.
"We had a bunch of guys who looked like they didn't feel like playing from the opening tip," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We were just heavy-legged, slow-footed. We couldn't get up and down the floor and had tremendous trouble guarding them. We got exactly what we deserved.
"We played a very low-energy game; it was still there for us to win. Somebody has to win the game. The last 5 or 6 minutes, they got every ball and were all over the glass. Not every game is a masterpiece. Sometimes, there are opportunities; [the Sixers] saw an opportunity to go ahead and take care of business and get the game. We just couldn't find the energy . . . I'm bewildered by my team. I've got a really bad taste in my mouth. It was a very poor all-around effort by us."
Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski reacted quickly to a posting last night on SI.com saying that former Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders was the likely next coach of the team, attributing it to a source.
"I have no idea where that is coming from," said Stefanski, who repeatedly has said that he talked to no coaching candidates outside the organization. "Tony DiLeo is our coach. We will evaluate at the end of the season."
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