ATLANTA, March 9 (Ticker) -- A little more than a week ago, Allen Iverson claimed the Philadelphia 76ers were still the best team in the Eastern Conference. Those words clearly have lit a fire under his teammates.

Iverson scored 28 points and got plenty of help as the hot-shooting Sixers drubbed the Atlanta Hawks, 112-91, for their third straight victory.

"We just need to get into the playoffs and if we get in there, everything will take care of itself," said Iverson, whose team is the defending conference champion. "Anytime you win, it does a lot for your confidence. We feel good right now."

Philadelphia shot 56 percent from the field (42-of-75), rolling to its sixth win in seven games. The 76ers have won four of five since Iverson made his remarks before a victory over conference-leading New Jersey on March 1.

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Allen Iverson's opinion, (and play) may have provided the spark Philly needed.
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"We played great -- everybody," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "We shot the ball, we defended great, we played unselfishly. A good win, I couldn't be happier."

Speedy Claxton scored nine of his 18 points in a late 16-0 spurt that gave the Sixers a 103-77 bulge with 4:45 remaining.

"It was still pretty much of a game and we blew it open from there," Claxton said. "Once we started playing some sort of defense, rotating and getting steals, we were able to go to the other end and get some baskets."

"This is the best Speedy has played in a while," Brown added. "He was phenomenal on both ends."

Iverson feels the key for the Sixers' improved play has been an ability to close out games.

"We're making things happen," he said. "Once we get leads, we're scoring."

"The beginning of the fourth quarter, our defense really got going," Brown added. "I don't think we've played any better than we did during those five or six minutes all year. That's about as good as we can play."

Dikembe Mutombo contributed 17 points against his former team and Eric Snow added 15 for the Sixers, who improved to 15-0 when reaching the century mark.

"We're trying to find a way to be to establish positive things and be a strong defensive team," Mutombo said. "Tonight we showed some signs."

Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 26 points and Jason Terry chipped in 25 for the Hawks, who have split their last six games. Philadelphia took three of four from Atlanta, winning the series for the third straight season.

"It was kind of uphill all night for us," Hawks coach Lon Kruger said. "They jumped on us pretty good to start the fourth quarter and we didn't have the response at that time. They were quicker to the ball in the second half, hurt us on the boards, and they converted on the loose balls."

The Hawks took their only lead, 8-7, on Terry's jumper with 9:21 left in the first quarter. The Sixers closed the period with a 20-7 spurt to take a 27-15 lead.

"We started missing and they ran out on us," Terry said. "They drove the ball at us. They were the aggressor tonight. That's why they won."

Atlanta closed to 44-43 on Hanno Mottola's jumper with 51 seconds remaining in the second period, but the Sixers scored the final five points of the half and Iverson took over in the third quarter.

"We didn't handle their pressure well," Abdur-Rahim said. "When they trapped, we didn't handle it well and that put us in a bad way."

Iverson scored 11 points in the period, including three straight 3-pointers. His third shot from beyond the arc gave the Sixers a 67-53 lead with 6:52 to go and Atlanta got no closer than seven on a pair of occasions late in the third.