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Philadelphia 96, New Orleans 87
Sixers Stop Hornets, One Win from Semifinals

Allen Iverson dished five assists Monday.
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NEW ORLEANS, April 28 (Ticker) -- One nightmarish fourth quarter was enough for Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Iverson scored 22 points as the 76ers played a virtually flawless fourth quarter en route to a 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets and a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

In Game Three, Philadelphia trailed by two points early in the final period before the Hornets scored 15 in a row. During the decisive quarter, the Sixers committed six of their 16 turnovers, leading to 11 points for New Orleans.

Game Four was a different story as Philadelphia was almost perfect in the fourth quarter, particularly whenever the Hornets tried to rally.

"The last game, they outhustled us," Iverson said. "They're one of the biggest teams, I've ever faced and that's why it was hard for me at times to get in there. We just tried to outhustle them tonight."

"It was just a completely different quarter for us," Sixers forward Keith Van Horn added. "We were the more aggressive team. That's the team we have to be in order to win this series, especially late in the fourth quarter, when it's gut-check time. That's when you win basketball games."

A 3-pointer by David Wesley with 6:36 remaining got New Orleans within 81-80.

But Philadelphia took control with an 13-2 burst, building a 94-82 lead with 2:50 remaining. Iverson, who had missed 11 of his previous 12 shots, made a pair of big baskets during the spurt and helped on the defensive end as the 76ers held the Hornets without a basket for nearly six minutes.

When Iverson found Aaron McKie for an open jumper that finished off the Hornets, he started yelling, `Yeah, Yeah' before the ball left McKie's hands.

"We knew going down the stretch that this was just going to become an energy game," Philadelphia guard Eric Snow said. "We weathered the storm and got some stops, then we ran some plays and we got some big offensive rebounds ourselves."

While Iverson was struggling to make a shot, his supporting cast prevented New Orleans from getting over the hump. The 76ers took a 74-66 lead into the final quarter, but the Hornets were within 77-73 following a driving layup by Baron Davis with 10:14 remaining.

Van Horn scored Philadelphia's first seven points of the period to maintain the lead. New Orleans hung around, cashing in on turnovers by former Hornet Derrick Coleman, McKie and Iverson to make it a one-point game.

But Iverson found Snow for a mid-range jumper and Coleman converted P.J. Brown's turnover into a dunk for an 85-80 advantage with 5:36 remaining.

Iverson got his first basket since ending the third quarter layup, putting Philadelphia up, 87-80, with 4:41 remaining.

The 22 points marked Iverson's lowest total in the series as he made just 9-of-28 shots. He scored a team playoff-record 55 points in the series opener and averaged 37.3 points in the first three games.

Philadelphia made up the slack with balanced scoring and solid rebounding. Six players scored in double figures, the Sixers outrebounded the Hornets, 43-38, and turned 20 turnovers into 23 points.

"As bad as I was struggling out there, it just makes you feel good to win a game like this, being that I can play so bad and my teammates can play so well," Iverson said. "It gives me that confidence going into any game. When I'm struggling, I know we've still a shot to win the game because I've got guys in a foxhole with me."

Davis scored a playoff career-high 34 points for the Hornets, who again were without Jamal Mashburn. New Orleans' leading scorer could miss the rest of the series with a dislocated right middle finger.

Game Five is Wednesday at Philadelphia.

"Being up 3-1 feels good," Snow said. "We want to come out and end the series in the next game. There's no tomorrow for them. We have to approach it with the same focus and intensity that they are going to have."

"We have to go up there and win the next game," New Orleans coach Paul Silas said. "We're going to battle. Laying down is not in our vocabulary."

The Sixers shot 42.5 percent (34-of-80), despite missing 13 of their first 15 attempts. They made seven straight baskets, triggering a 19-7 run over the final 5:09 of the opening quarter that turned a seven-point deficit into a 25-20 lead.

"They were more active on the boards and we didn't meet their intensity," Hornets forward P.J. Brown said. "They had everybody coming and we didn't have everybody coming. To win, we have to duplicate what we did on Saturday."

Philadelphia used another big run late in the half, outscoring the Hornets, 14-2, to take a 51-37 advantage with 97 seconds left. But Davis scored New Orleans' final 10 points to slice the halftime deficit to 52-45.

Snow had 17 points and 12 assists, Van Horn scored 13 points and Kenny Thomas, Coleman and McKie added 11 apiece.

Without Mashburn, Davis had little help. He made 12-of-19 shots, but the rest of the Hornets clicked at under 36 percent (20-of-56).