Iverson’s 40 Sparks Sixers Past Rockets
Philadelphia 106, Houston 101
HOUSTON, March 1 (Ticker) -- The Philadelphia 76ers were on the verge of turning a Texas two-step into a tumble until Allen Iverson took over.
Iverson scored eight of his 40 points in the final three-plus minutes as the 76ers rallied for their fourth win in five games, a 106-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.
"Anytime you come to Texas, you're going to play ... tough teams," Philadelphia forward Kyle Korver said. "This is a big win for us."
The Sixers won their first three games after the All-Star break before Monday's loss at Dallas. In a fourth quarter Wednesday that featured seven ties and lead changes, they fell behind, 98-96, as Houston's Yao Ming made two free throws with 3:55 to play.
Iverson tied it with two foul shots, then gave Philadelphia the lead for good with two more at the 2:39 mark. After Andre Iguodala stripped the ball from Houston superstar Tracy McGrady, Iverson buried a foul-line jumper for a 102-98 lead at the 2:09 mark.
"They were double-teaming me a lot in the third quarter," Iverson said. "In the fourth, I just tried to run by the big guy (Yao). Once you run by the big guy, you can break the defense down."
"The problem was our big guys didn't help the small guys try to stop Allen Iverson," Yao said. "Our pick-and-roll coverage was horrible, especially the high pick-and-roll coverage. We really have to work on that."
Celebrating his 33rd birthday, the 6-10 Webber went right at the 7-5 Yao for a bucket and a six-point lead with 1:38 to go. McGrady cut the deficit in half with a 3-pointer, but the Rockets squandered a pair of possessions and Iverson sealed it with a pull-up jumper, pounding his chest afterward.
"He got into a rhythm early and it's hard to get him out of it," said Rockets guard Rafer Alston, who had to defend Iverson. "When you do want to play defense, you can't touch or breathe on a guy like that."
"He had that look in his eyes and he was our assassin out there for us," Webber said. Iverson made 16-of-29 shots and added 10 assists and seven rebounds in his 12th 40-point game this season. Philadelphia is 7-5 in those games.
"Forty points and 10 assists. When he wasn't scoring, he was creating opportunities for other guys," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Tonight was a prime example of a team effort. Our intensity was much better from the start."
"Whatever makes great players, that is exactly what he has," Sixers swingman John Salmons said. "I don't know what it is, but he's got it."
It also was the 71st career 40-point game for Iverson, who moved past Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rick Barry into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list. It marked the first time in his 10-year career he scored 40 against a team coached by Jeff Van Gundy.
"That was a very disappointing fourth quarter," Van Gundy said. "The level of defense, the intensity was not correct, and the shot selection was outside-in vs. inside-out. We deserve what we got."
Korver scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Salmons added 10 for the Sixers, who shot 52 percent (41-of-79) and ended a seven-game skid against the Rockets dating to January 15, 2002 - when Iverson scored 58 in an overtime win.
McGrady scored 25 points and fellow All-Star Yao added 22 for the Rockets (25-33), who have lost two in a row following a three-game winning streak. Houston shot just 43 percent (37-of-86) and fell to 18-10 when McGrady and Yao are in the lineup.
The Rockets have lost the first two of a stretch where they play nine of 11 games at home. They are four games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We're not really even thinking about the playoffs," McGrady said. "We're just trying to improve and get better by the day. We're a long way from being in the playoffs right now and we can't even think about that right now."
McGrady, who scored just seven points in the first half, had eight in a 47-second span early in the third quarter, giving Houston a 53-49 lead. Shortley thereafter, Rafer Alston and David Wesley made consecutive 3-pointers to push the advantage to 67-56 with 5:01 left.
However, the Sixers rallied behind Iverson and Webber to close to 77-73 entering the final period and caught the Rockets at 80-80 on a jumper by Samuel Dalembert with 10 minutes to play.