PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Just when Allen Iverson put some controversy
behind him, a familiar face could be peeking around the postseason
corner ready to stir up some mixed feelings.
Then again, with the way Iverson is playing, perhaps an
emotional reunion with his former coach may be delayed.
Iverson had 39 points and 12 assists, and Kyle Korver scored 19
points to lead the 76ers back into the postseason for the first
time in two years with a 122-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks
on Monday night.
"I feel like myself and my teammates, we are a playoff team,"
Iverson said. "We believed that all year. We believed in each
other. We stuck with each other in good times and bad times and we
never pointed fingers at each other."
The Sixers blew a chance to clinch a playoff spot a day earlier
by losing in New Jersey, but they didn't waste this opportunity.
They raced to a 22-point lead and won for the seventh time in nine
games and 10th in the last 15 -- a fantastic finish for a team that
seemed headed toward the lottery about six weeks ago.
Philadelphia (42-39) can finish, sixth, seventh or eighth in the
Eastern Conference depending on how Indiana, fading Cleveland and
streaking New Jersey fare in their final games. If Chicago beats
the Pacers on Wednesday and the Sixers beat Atlanta, Philadelphia
would earn the No. 6 seed.
"We had to act like we wanted to get in," Iverson said. "We
had to play this game as hard as we could. I was telling my
teammates `After this game, you should really be tired because you
should leave everything out there.' This game had a lot on the
Playoff fever hasn't exactly gripped the city. Competing with a
Mets-Phillies game across the street, there were plenty of empty
pockets of seats in the lower level and upper deck. Maybe the
possible return of former coach Larry Brown -- with whom Iverson
famously feuded -- will the give the Sixers some juice on the local
The Sixers would play second-seeded Detroit, the defending
champion, if the standings remained the same.
"It doesn't matter, regardless of who we start out with,"
After finishing 33-49 and out of the playoffs for the first time
since the 1997-98 season, the Sixers hired coach Jim O'Brien, got
outstanding seasons from their young nucleus of Korver, Samuel
Dalembert and Iguodola and traded for Webber in February.
They also got a healthy, happy Iverson. While Steve Nash and
Shaquille O'Neal will probably garner most of the MVP votes,
Iverson has certainly made a case with one of the best seasons of
his nine-year career.
"These are the results," Iverson said. "It all paid off."
Iverson made sure the wait for a postseason bid wouldn't last to
Wednesday's finale against Atlanta, scoring 26 points in the first
half, punctuating it with an 18-footer right before the buzzer.
The Sixers led 70-50 at halftime, the most points scored in a
half by the Sixers this year. They shot 58 percent in the half --
with Iverson going 9-for-17 -- and made six of 13 3-pointers.
Iverson averaged 45.3 points in four games against the Bucks.
"We had no answer for Allen," Mason said. "He played well and
hurt us again. When he's going well, they're a tough team."
Iverson came in averaging a league-best 30.8 points and will
join Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and George Gervin as the only
players with four scoring titles.
"He's getting points, he's getting double-figure assists, he's
getting everything," Korver said. "A lot of credit has to go to
Korver snapped a tie game with a 3-pointer, Webber converted a
three-point play and Korver hit another 3 to lead a 9-2 run in the
first quarter and give the Sixers a lead for good.
The Bucks played without guard Michael Redd (left Achilles'
tendinitis). They placed F Joe Smith on the injured list because of
a cut on his pinky and activated C Daniel Santiago. Smith averaged
11 points and 7.3 rebounds in 74 games. ... Iguodala, the only
Sixer to start every game, thanked the fans for their support
before the game. ... O'Brien is the first Sixers coach to have a
winning record in his first season since Jim Lynam in 1988-89. ...
Iverson surpassed Charles Barkley for second place on Philly's
season points list.
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