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Philadelphia 98, New Orleans 90
Iverson's 55 Gives Sixers Game 1

Allen Iverson's 55 was a career playoff high.
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PHILADELPHIA, April 20 (Ticker) -- In the illustious history of the Philadelphia 76ers, nobody -- not Wilt, not Dr. J, not Moses -- had an individual performance like Allen Iverson's against the New Orleans Hornets.

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Iverson scored a team playoff-record 55 points as the 76ers defeated the Hornets, 98-90, in Game One of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

"He was on fire," Hornets coach Paul Silas said of Iverson, who fell eight points shy of Michael Jordan's NBA playoff record set exactly 17 years ago in a double-overtime loss at Boston. "Anytime a guy like that is on fire, there's very little you can do except to take the ball out of his hands. It's right up there with Michael's 63. He just had a great night."

The NBA saw some superlative performances over the opening weekend of the playoffs, but the best came in the last game.

Iverson shot 21-of-32, including 9-of-11 in the fourth quarter, and 10-of-11 from the line to surpass his own playoff record of 54 points set in a 97-92 triumph over Toronto in Game 2 of the 2001 conference semifinals.

"I knew he'd come out with fire in his eyes," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "(Dirk) Nowitzki goes for 46 and Tracy (McGrady) goes for 43, Kobe (Bryant) went for 39. So I figured he was motivated a little."

"I just caught a rhythm," Iverson said. "I got in one of those rhythms where the basket looks like an ocean and I was just throwing rocks in it. My teammates did a superb job just getting me the ball in the spots where I need them, and every time I came up free, the ball was there."

It was the sixth-highest total in NBA playoff history and three points shy of Iverson's personal best.

"This was his best ever, by far," Brown said. "And he's had some pretty darn good games."

With his teammates almost entirely shut down by the Hornets, Iverson stepped up time and again. After George Lynch nailed a baseline jumper to get New Orleans within 86-84 with 4:05 remaining, Iverson countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to help the Sixers hang on.

New Orleans got within 94-90 on a pair of free throws by Jamal Mashburn with 52 seconds left, but Iverson -- who scored 20 points in the final 12 minutes -- responded 15 seconds later with an arching scoop shot over P.J. Brown.

Eric Snow capped the scoring with a pair of free throws with 17 seconds to play.

Snow added 15 points and 10 assists and Aaron McKie scored 12 points for the Sixers, who lost two of three meetings with the Hornets during the season, including a 94-89 defeat a week ago.

"This is the same team," Snow said. "But you have to remember, we didn't have Keith Van Horn or Derrick Coleman that game, and they absolutely killed us on the rebounding. That is our top two leading rebounders that didn't even play. So I think that they made up for a lot of that."

New Orleans again outrebounded Philadelphia, 37-32, but the Sixers scored more second-chance points, 12-7.

Mashburn scored 28 points to pace New Orleans, which fell behind for good, 70-68, on a 3-pointer by Iverson that closed the third quarter.

Iverson scored 13 points in the opening period as the Sixers jumped to a 27-20 lead.

New Orleans took its biggest lead, 36-30, on a pair of free throws by David Wesley with 6:45 left in the second quarter before Philadelphia tightened its defense and went back on top, 49-44, entering the break. Iverson had 25 points at halftime.

"I felt good in the beginning especially in the first quarter," Iverson said. "I hit some free throws and my free-throw shooting felt good. A lot of times when my free throws are good, I feel like my jumper can get on early in the game. But in the second half, the third and fourth quarters, that is when I knew I was in a rhythm."

The Sixers had 24 assists and committed 15 turnovers, while the Hornets had 12 assists and 24 giveaways, which Philadelphia converted into 24 points.

"We had opportunities to go ahead and we turned the ball over, and that's what hurt us," Lynch said. "They are a good team and you cannot turn the ball over against them. They are going to scrap. This series is going to come down to who is going to get on the floor more and whoever leaves it on the floor, leaves some skin, leaves some blood, that's who is going to win."

"We were not very good tonight and we have to be better in order to win," Silas added. "If we had taken care of the ball, we really would have done better."

"I think if I'm a fan, sitting there watching what he did, I would be pretty excited," Brown said of Iverson. "It was pretty neat. He took it upon himself and did extraordinary things. I don't know how it could get much better than that.

"(But) we can't do it with expecting him to get 51. We have to do it as a team. In fairness to him, we have to have people step up and accept that responsibility."