Philadelphia prevails in OT despite botching 12-point lead in fourth

PHILADELPHIA -- Lou Williams saved the 76ers in regulation. Andre Iguodala sent them home winners in overtime.

The Sixers are already talking about the playoffs, and holding off a Charlotte team nipping at their heels in the standings is a big step toward playing meaningful games in April.

Iguodala hit the go-ahead jumper with 37.6 seconds left in overtime, Thaddeus Young followed with a game-saving steal and the Sixers beat the Bobcats 96-92 on Monday.

"It's mid-January and we're thinking playoffs," forward Elton Brand said.

Iguodala's pull-up jumper eased the sting of blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. Kwame Brown's errant cross-court pass was intercepted by Young, and Evan Turner hit four free throws in the final 17 seconds for the Sixers.

Williams set up the heroics.

Williams, who led the Sixers with 23 points, sent the game into OT after he hit a 3 with 4.7 seconds left to make it 86-86.

"Just huge," Brand said.

Iguodala had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Brand added 13 points and 13 rebounds.

It's never too early to start thinking about the postseason, especially for a team that was one of the worst in the NBA last season. The win put them 1½ games ahead of Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Boris Diaw had a triple-double for the Bobcats with 25 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

For a spell in the fourth, the Bobcats looked poised to snatch the win.

Diaw and Stephen Jackson hit 3s in a 13-0 run that tied the game at 81. Gerald Wallace put the Bobcats ahead 84-81 when he buried an uncontested 3 with 2:06 left in the game and had the Sixers on the brink of completing another fourth quarter meltdown.

Williams wouldn't let them go down that easy.

Williams took the screen pass, pump-faked D.J. Augustin, and hit the tying 3 that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

"I sure like the fight in my team, I really do," Collins said.

Williams apologized to the team after a Jan. 8 loss at Detroit because he missed two free throws late in regulation that could have helped the Sixers win. Detroit's Austin Daye hit a tying 3 and the Pistons went on to win in overtime.

"I really took that one hard," Williams said. "I just said, I apologize. I lost this one but I'm going to help us win more than I help lose."

Williams followed the apology with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds left to beat Milwaukee on Friday. That marked the Sixers' first win in games decided by four points or fewer. Now, they have their first OT victory in four tries.

"It's a sign of growth," Brand said. "Winning them in the crunch, grind-it-out games, it bodes well for our confidence."

Jackson, who scored 15 points, missed the final shot and the game went into OT.

Brown had season highs with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

"We're fighting hard to stay in games and we're not just giving up," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. "We'll get there. We'll learn and we'll get there."

The big swing for the Bobcats came late in the fourth when Brand was whistled for a flagrant foul on Brown's basket. Brown hit the free throw, the Bobcats kept possession and Diaw hit a 3 -- a six-point streak thanks to one foul that sliced the lead. Jackson's 3 capped the 13-0 run and tied the game at 81.

The Bobcats made up for missing all 10 3-point attempts in the first half by finding their groove to open the third. Diaw hit two and Wallace one during a 13-2 run that put the Bobcats up 10.

"That's what we do a lot of times on this team," Brown said. "We've just got to get it going."

When the run ended, so did Charlotte's shooting touch.

The Bobcats missed their last 11 shots of the quarter and went the final 9:09 without a field goal.

Williams, again sparking the Sixers off the bench, scored eight points during a 10-0 run late in the third quarter that helped them build the big lead.

The Sixers have won 11 of their last 14 home games while the Bobcats dropped to 4-14 overall on the road. The Sixers' 12 home wins are as many as they had all last season.

"We're just playing as a unit all the way around," Brand said.

Game notes
Bobcats F Tyrus Thomas was suspended without pay for a flagrant foul against the Hornets' Emeka Okafor. Thomas elbowed Okafor in the head and was ejected for a flagrant foul, penalty two, late in the Bobcats' 88-81 loss Saturday. ... 76ers F Andres Nocioni sat out for the Sixers with a dislocated right middle finger. There is no timetable for his return.