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Published on Jun 2, 2012
A couple of misses by Chauncey Billups kept the Philadelphia 76ers the NBA's biggest hit.
Billups missed a wild layup and the potential tying free throws in the final seconds as the 76ers remained undefeated with an 84-82 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Eric Snow scored 22 points, including two free throws that gave the 76ers apparent control at 83-79 with 26 seconds remaining. But Kevin Garnett, who earlier missed two key free throws, made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one point with 16 seconds to go.
Snow went to the line again and converted 1-of-2 and Billups pushed the ball upcourt, looking for the tying layup. But he was pressured all the way and threw up a wild shot over Theo Ratliff that was rebounded by George Lynch, who was fouled with 6.6 seconds left.
Lynch, an inconsistent foul shooter, missed both to give the Timberwolves another chance. Billups again penetrated and drew a foul from Snow with 0.9 seconds to play. But the career 87 percent foul shooter missed the first and screamed in anguish.
Billups intentionally missed the second but Tyrone Hill batted away the ball as time expired, giving Philadelphia its sixth straight win.
"It was a tough shooting night and we still had a chance to win," Billups said. "We got what we wanted. It just didn't work out."
The 76ers matched their best start in 21 years. The 1982-83 squad also won its first six games en route to the NBA title. The 1979-80 team won its first eight and reached the NBA Finals.
"All it means is that we're giving ourselves a chance for home court in the playoffs," Snow said. "That's all it means."
"It means a lot, because it's great for the fans of Philly," backcourt mate Allen Iverson said. "It's great that they get an opprtunity to see a competitive team."
Iverson overcame a rough first half to score 18 points for the Sixers, who are joined by Cleveland and Utah as the NBA's only unbeaten teams. Philadelphia overcame 41 percent shooting (28-of-68) and 21 turnovers with a 56-35 rebounding advantage and a 28-9 edge in points from the line.
Garnett scored 24 points and Billups added 20 for the Wolves, which has lost three in a row for the first time since dropping four straight last February. Minnesota shot just 39 percent (34-of-87) as it suffered its second straight two-point setback.
Conversely, Philadelphia again is making a habit of winning close games. The Sixers are 2-0 in games decided by three points or less after going a league-best 17-8 last season.
The fourth quarter featured 10 lead changes and four ties. The largest lead was 74-70 on Billups' 3-pointer with 4:15 to play. Snow answered with a three-point play and Aaron McKie sank a jumper, giving the Sixers a 75-74 edge with 3:29 to go.
"Eric has been great all season," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "He made some unbelievable plays tonight. He made some big free throws, he had a big three-point play. ... Eric is learning about himself and his teammates have confidence in him."
Garnett had a three-point play but Snow hit a tying jumper and drew a charge from Brandon. Iverson made the go-ahead free throw with 1:16 left and Garnett surprisingly missed a pair 11 seconds later. Minnesota was 9-of-20 from the line.
McKie made another jumper with 48 seconds remaining and Theo Ratliff made 1-of-2 free throws before Garnett sank two, making it 81-79.
Ratliff, Hill and Lynch dominated the paint with 14, 13 and 12 rebounds, respectively. They combined for 25 points and did a credible job on Garnett.
"We definitely wanted to be aggressive on the offensive boards and defensive boards," Ratliff said. "George, Ty and myself just tried to get every single rebound."
"They may be the best offensive and defensive rebounding team in the league," Billups said. "We knew that going in and we needed to get bodies on them."
Both teams were playing for the second straight night and were lethargic in the first half, which ended with Minnesota holding a 36-30 lead. The teams combine to shoot less than 33 percent from the field and miss 15 free throws, with the Wolves making just 1-of-9 3-pointers and the Sixers committing 12 turnovers.
Snow scored eight points in the third quarter as the Sixers erased a seven-point deficit and took a 54-53 lead into the final period. Iverson scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
"That's as good a second half as Allen has ever had," Brown said. "After 1-for-7 shooting in the first half, he really came back strong. He was just terrific in the second half."