PHILADELPHIA — When Allen Iverson swished jump shots from improbable angles or seemed to be suspended in midair while passing to open teammates, the Clippers simply set their jaws and went back to work.
When calls didn't go their way, the Clippers took a deep breath and kept playing Wednesday against Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
When the game went to overtime and the 76ers took a three-point lead on Iverson's 20-foot jump shot, the Clippers seemed poised to take it back in the final seconds. They got the basketball into the right man's hands, but he missed and the 76ers staved off the Clippers, 101-99, only after Elton Brand missed a five-foot jumper with six seconds remaining in overtime before a lively crowd of 16,651 at the First Union Center.
"That's my shot," Brand said. "Tough, tough, tough. I was hoping the ball would hit the front of the rim and bounce in like it usually does. I made that shot probably three times tonight."
It was difficult to pin the Clippers' third loss in four games to start the season on Brand. Iverson certainly had a sizable role, scoring 34 points on 11-for-28 shooting in 48 minutes. Brand was the Clippers' best player, although not their only one who excelled in the first game of a four-game trip.
Brand scored 21 points on seven-for-12 shooting and took a season-high 19 rebounds in 47 minutes. Michael Olowokandi had 14 points and 13 rebounds in 47 minutes. Andre Miller had 13 points and 13 assists in 45 minutes. Eric Piatkowski and Corey Maggette scored 18 points apiece.
Maggette, playing with damaged cartilage in his right knee, helped the Clippers build a 74-62 lead with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter by scoring 17 points in the period. To that point, it was the Clippers' best basketball of the season.
"We should have been able to finish them off," Brand said. "Give credit to Philadelphia. They played hard. They didn't want to lose either. They gained momentum in the fourth quarter. Allen really stepped up his play."
The 76ers' 12-2 run to end the third quarter put an end to any thoughts the Clippers had of turning the game into a runaway.
Iverson wouldn't let it happen. He almost made the 76ers winners in the final seconds of regulation, but couldn't bank home an off-balance jumper from the right wing with Miller hounding him.
Miller was a little too close, according to Iverson.
"I was fouled," said Iverson, who injured his right hand on the play, "but that one you just have to let go."
Iverson didn't miss on a 20-footer from the left wing with Keyon Dooling pestering him with 45.2 seconds left in overtime, however, giving Philadelphia a 100-97 lead. In overtime, Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry had Dooling instead of Miller guarding Iverson. Miller picked up his fifth foul with 6.6 seconds left in regulation.
Miller cut the Clippers' deficit to 100-99 with two free throws with 34.6 to play. After a steal and a timeout with 17.1 left, the Clippers got the ball into Brand's hands.
Brand swept past earthbound 76er forward Mark Bryant, moving into the paint and launching what looked like a game-winner.
Instead, the ball bounced off the rim, into Iverson's hands. Miller grabbed Iverson with 0.4 remaining and he made one of two free throws to account for the final score.
"I'm looking at the clock," Brand would later say when asked about his pivotal miss. "I see six seconds left and I'm thinking, 'Put it in.' All I needed was a little more touch on it. I got a tough bounce off the rim. It's more than one shot, though. We didn't execute the way we could have the entire game."
The Clippers trailed, 47-43, by halftime, a noteworthy start because Maggette and Quentin Richardson each played with knee injuries.