Coming 24 hours after a tough 99-95 loss to the Hornets, owners of the worst record in the league, this was just what the Sixers, who were playing for the third straight game without the injured Allen Iverson, needed.
"That's one thing about the NBA - you can always redeem yourself," said backup guard John Salmons, who scored a season-high 19 points to go with six assists. "The games keep coming quick. We've got another one Monday [at home against Indiana], so we've got to let this one go."
The Sixers redeemed themselves with defense, holding the Mavericks, the league's third-highest-scoring team, to 36.7 percent shooting. Dirk Nowitzki needed 25 shots - he made only seven - to score 25 points. Michael Finley shot 6 for 23, with Aaron McKie doing a particularly good defensive job on him.
The Sixers won the battle of the boards by 51-50 despite a career-high 26 rebounds by Dallas' Erick Dampier, who also collected 14 points and seven blocks.
"I thought our defense was smothering against a team that's hard to guard," Sixers coach Jim O'Brien said. "Our challenges [of shots] were good. We pursued loose balls. We pursued rebounds. We played a very, very solid basketball game."
Asked if this was the Sixers' best defensive performance of the season, O'Brien said: "I don't think there's any doubt. You hold a team like that under 37 percent shooting, with all their weapons - you have to have an extraordinary effort to do that. I thought everybody on the court really played their hearts out."
That meant the reserves as well as the starters. The Sixers' bench outscored the Dallas bench by 42-5.
The Sixers won for the first time in the five games they had played this season without Iverson, who sat for the third straight game because of a strained left rotator cuff.
Iverson's mates took turns trying to pick up the slack. Salmons scored 11 of his points in the second quarter to spark the Sixers to a 52-43 halftime lead. Kenny Thomas scored 10 of his 12 in the third quarter, which ended with the Sixers on top by 75-70.
Then, in the fourth quarter, it was Korver.
The Sixers went cold for nearly six minutes and saw the Mavericks pull in front by 84-80 when Jerry Stackhouse ended an 11-0 run by sinking a jumper with 4 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. Korver ended the drought with a runner in the lane.
Then Korver knocked down a three-pointer at the 2:56 mark to put the Sixers in front by 87-85. After Stackhouse hit a short jumper, Korver gave the Sixers the lead for good with a pair of free throws with 2:23 left.
After Corliss Williamson gave the Sixers a four-point lead on two free throws with 44.8 seconds to play, Jason Terry nailed a jumper for the Mavericks. Dampier then blocked a shot by Salmons on a drive, but Terry misfired on a jumper. Korver went up, grabbed his 10th and final rebound, and drained the two free throws that iced the victory.
"I had to get some rebounds," Korver said. "I only had four (Friday night), and that's something Coach zeroes in on me about. So I was just real focused tonight and I went after them."
The Sixers made only five of 17 shots in the fourth quarter and finished with just under 41 percent shooting from the field. But they held the Mavericks to 6-for-24 shooting over the final 12 minutes.
O'Brien rolled the dice by going without a true center in the final 5:14, going with Thomas and Williamson up front against the Mavs' power duo of the 6-11 Dampier and the 7-foot Nowitzki. But they held their own on the boards.
O'Brien said the Sixers' bench improved the team's level of play in the first half. Trailing by 25-23 at the end of the first quarter, the Sixers got 22 of their 29 points in the second period from their bench.
Salmons confidently drove the ball against Terry, the Mavericks' point guard, and Finley. Williamson chipped in with nine points. McKie, who had gotten only 11 minutes of playing time in his last two games, contributed 14 first-half minutes of hard-nosed defense against Finley, who was just 4 of 15 in the opening two quarters.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com.