NEWARK, N.J. - Midway through the fourth quarter, before walking to his team's bench for a time-out, 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala approached the referee and asked for the game ball.
The referee, pausing in confusion, eventually handed him the ball. Iguodala gripped it between his palms as if assessing its merit as an NBA basketball. A second later, he returned it to the referee and jogged toward the Sixers' bench.
On Tuesday night in the Prudential Center, neither team had a particularly good grip on the basketball, and neither team looked particularly adept offensively, but as Iguodala said after his team's 82-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets, somebody had to win.
And it just happened to be the Sixers.
"It just wasn't a good game," said Iguodala, whose 2-for-9 shooting was hardly the exception. "It was an ugly game of basketball. Neither team did anything to get better, but somebody had to win, and it just happened to be us."
Jrue Holiday scored 19 points for the Sixers, who improved to 9-15 with their second road win. The Nets, led by Brook Lopez with 16 points, dropped to 6-19.
Despite shooting only 40.5 percent from the floor, being outrebounded, 51-36, and getting a contribution of only 10 points from their usually potent bench, the Sixers took the lead only 2 minutes, 43 seconds into the game and never relinquished it.
Sixers coach Doug Collins said he loosened his tie when New Jersey's Travis Outlaw capped a 6-0 run by nailing a three-pointer with 34.6 seconds remaining to cut the Nets' deficit to 78-75.
"When Outlaw's shot went in, I went, 'Oh no,' " Collins said. "We did just enough to win the game. . . . We still make way too many mistakes at the end of the game, and I told our guys after the game, 'We won the game, but . . .' "
In the final 3:11, the Sixers committed three turnovers.
"I think we've seen it before, and we saw a glimpse of it down the stretch, but I think the fact we were able to pull together and seal it up, that felt good," said Sixers center Spencer Hawes, who scored 18 points.
"We've been in this position many times and didn't finish it, so it's a step forward to finish the game, but against some other teams we may have folded, so we're glad we got this win," said power forward Elton Brand, who scored 15 points.
The Sixers' bench scored zero points in the second half and finished the night 4 for 16 from the floor.
"We had a really good grip on the game, and then when I went to my bench, we just had no juice at all," Collins said.
The Nets had even less, shooting 34.1 percent.
"We got away with it, and I told them, I have to teach maybe more in winning than in losing, because in losing everybody's nerves are frayed," Collins said.
Yes, the Sixers regressed a little bit on Tuesday night.
Their offense was a little sloppier, their execution a little less precise, and their flow a little less fluid.
But, imagine this, the Sixers still won.