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
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
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
capped the scoring with a pair of free throws with 17
seconds to play.
Snow added 15 points and 10 assists and Aaron McKie
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
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."