Iverson Returns, Helps Sixers End Slide
Philadelphia 115, Atlanta 106
PHILADELPHIA, March 22 (Ticker) -- With Allen Iverson back in the lineup, the Philadelphia 76ers looked like a new team.
Iverson had 29 points and 12 assists in his return to the lineup as the 76ers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 115-106 victory over the Hawks.
Iverson suffered a sprained foot late in the first half at Memphis on March 12. The Sixers won that game but lost their next four - all without their superstar leader - to fall into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"If I could have, I would have forced myself to come back sooner," Iverson said. "When I got hurt in Memphis and I couldn't come back after halftime, I knew that it was something (bad). I didn't want to go out there and make it worse. The way it feels right now, I don't think that I could have done that. I didn't expect it to be this sore after this game."
Iverson's impact was evident almost from the opening tip. The NBA's second-leading scorer opened the floor for himself and teammates such as Korver and Andre Iguodala, who had difficulty picking up the slack in his absence.
Korver had countless open looks and made 8-of-11 shots, including six of his team's season-high 10 3-pointers. Iguodala had a handful of dunks and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
"I feel like people have tried to divide us this year, for some reason," Korver said. "Like we don't want to play with Allen, or we get upset when someone shoots shots. Allen provides so much for this team. There is this perception that we don't like playing with him and that's not the case."
"He's our leading scorer for a reason," Iguodala said. "He attacks the other team's defense and creates openings for the other guys. We were able to play as a team tonight."
It also helped that the Hawks were without injured guards Tyronn Lue and rookie Salim Stoudamire, who may have had better success in containing Iverson than swingmen Joe Johnson and Josh Childress.
"It was really tough on us because we did need an extra guard to help play with his type of pace," Hawks forward Al Harrington said. "He was able to break down the defense and get a lot of wide-open jump shots."
"He is the Sixers," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "As he goes, they go. He puts so much pressure on the defense with his offense. He is relentless. Tonight, I don't think we handled him well off the dribble. He was able to get to where he needed to go create for the other guys."
In 42 minutes, Iverson made 10-of-22 shots and 8-of-12 free throws. He had scored 39 and 53 points in his first two meetings with Atlanta this season.
"I can't figure out how he can miss that many days and play like that," Korver said. "I was sick for two days last week and for three or four days, I couldn't get my rhythm back at all. We played great and we obviously needed him to win tonight."
"I hope that they were glad that I was back," Iverson said. "I hope that I can give them that type of confidence. That is important for my confidence as well, to feel wanted and be able to go out there and make things happen."
Philadelphia (32-35) opened a 3 1/2-game lead over slumping Chicago (29-39) in the race for the final playoff spot in the East.
Three straight baskets by Webber snapped a 12-12 tie and gave Philadelphia the lead for good. Iverson had five assists in the first quarter, which ended with the Sixers holding a 32-24 lead.
"We really wanted this," Webber said. "I'm glad that we came out with a win and that we have AI back."
"Anytime that you have a player like Allen not play for four consecutive games, you're going to miss him," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Not just his 30 or 40 points, but his competitive sprit. All of our guys looked forward to him coming back."
In the second quarter, Iverson scored 11 points and Korver 10 as the lead ballooned to 67-48 at halftime. The Sixers shot a blistering 63 percent (27-of-43), including 6-of-7 from the arc.
Without their point guards, the Hawks also were sloppy. They had 12 turnovers in the first half, many of them poor passes that turned into transition opportunities for the Sixers.
"When we turned it over early, we were still in the game," Woodson said. "It just caught up with us. Before you know it, we were down by 15 and we just could not recover from that."
Kevin Ollie had 12 points and five assists for Philadelphia, which led by as many as 24 points in the second half.
Josh Smith scored 22 points and rookie Marvin Williams added 21 for the Hawks, who have lost two in a row and six of seven. They also shot 51 percent (38-of-75) but committed 19 turnovers.