EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For anyone who missed the 76ers' 83-79 victory over the truly awful New Jersey Nets last night, here's the CliffsNotes version: It was bad, ugly, and hard to watch.
But, at least temporarily, the Sixers averted disaster.
Leading up to the game, the chatter was that a loss could be the straw that would break coach Eddie Jordan's back. A franchise can absorb plenty of disappointing losses, but one to the Nets - a team averaging a win a month - would have been the exclamation point on this poorly written season.
"No disrespect to the Nets franchise, but they've won four games, and we're trying to make a run," said Sixers power forward Elton Brand, who scored 10 points. "We couldn't lose this game. No way we could lose this game."
They almost did.
With 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining, the Nets, trailing by 76-74, had the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead. They committed a 24-second violation.
A subsequent jumper by Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala looked to be the game's last important bucket, but Nets forward Yi Jianlian made a three-pointer with 23.4 seconds remaining, cutting the score to 80-77 and forcing Sixers coach Eddie Jordan to call another time-out.
Less than a second came off the clock before the Nets fouled Brand. The forward, who said afterward that he had played while ailing, missed both shots. New Jersey called a time-out with 22.1 seconds left.
The Nets' Jarvis Hayes - who made four three-pointers and scored 18 points - air-balled an off-balance 27-footer, essentially ending New Jersey's chances with 8.9 seconds remaining.
"We're coming together a little bit as far as playing team defense, locking down when we had to," Jordan said. "We didn't make shots, and we relied on the defense. That's what guys kept talking about: 'Come on, play the defense.' "
"I think we didn't execute on our end," said Nets center Brook Lopez, who scored 18 points.
The Sixers improved to 16-31. The Nets, who led by as many as 10, dropped to 4-42.
Not much about this game was pretty - not the sequences of turnovers, the dozens of missed layups, or the poor shooting, which included air balls and three-pointers knocked off the backboard's side.
In the second half, the teams combined to shoot 24 for 78, with a total of 16 turnovers. In the third quarter, the Nets scored 12 points; in the fourth quarter, the Sixers shot 16 percent (3 for 19) and scored 14 points.
"Obviously, they didn't play well at all for us to be able to win the game like that," Sixers guard Allen Iverson said.
"Just like I've been saying, we can't play against world champions the way we did and then come in here and play against a team that's only won four games and be in a nail-biter," said Iverson, referring to Friday's 99-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. "It's a frustrating thing. The only thing positive you can take from it - and the most important - is that we won."