PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinals; Pistons lead 2-1.
Allen Iverson loves the NBA’s postseason schedule makers. Especially with his team coming off a much-needed win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Iverson and the Sixers hope to carry over the momentum from their gritty Game 3 victory as they try to even their best-of-seven series with the Detroit Pistons at the First Union Center.
Philadelphia dropped the first two games in Detroit, including Thursday’s heartbreaking 94-87 overtime loss. Iverson had a chance to put that game away, but missed two costly free throws in the final seconds of regulation.
Undaunted, the Sixers came out like their season was on the line Saturday, grabbing every loose ball and dominating the boards in a 93-83 victory. Led by big men Kenny Thomas, Derrick Coleman and Tyrone Hill, Philadelphia outrebounded Detroit 48-30 and scored 27 second-chance points in a one-sided game that offered little suspense in the second half.
Iverson finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds and wasn’t the least bit upset that his team would be back on the floor for Game 4 less than 24 hours later.
“While we have momentum it is good to come right back in here the next day,” he said.
“I like that about the NBA anyway—being able to play back-to-back games. It just isn’t usual in the playoffs. When I saw it in the schedule I was excited about it because you can just go out there and play basketball and forget everything in between.”
Detroit coach Rick Carlisle admitted that his team missed a prime opportunity to put a stranglehold on the series, and is hoping the Pistons can match the Sixers’ tenacity in Game 4.
“We just didnt match their level of aggression,” Carlisle said. “We knew they were going to come out hard. They were playing with a level of intensity we just werent able to match for whatever reason. That certainly has to be one of the adjustments we make.
“Weve got to play with more force against this team.”
The Pistons might have point guard Chauncey Billups, the hero of their first-round series against Orlando, available for Game 4. A sprained ankle kept him sidelined for the second straight game, and Billups said afterward he’s 50-50 for Sunday.
Ben Wallace, the NBA’s leading rebounder, managed to pull down just six boards for Detroit in Game 3. Power forward Cliff Robinson didn’t provide much help, scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting while grabbing four rebounds.
Robinson feels the Pistons will be ready to bounce back quickly.
“We should be ready to go tomorrow,” he said. “They do a really good job of getting shots up and chasing down the rebounds. We knew coming into the series that that would be a way that they could hurt us. If you dont care of what you need to take care of, with boxing out and chasing balls down, then they can take advantage of it.”
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Billups, 22.8 ppg and 4.3 apg; Wallace, 16.9 rpg. 76ers - Iverson, 33.4 ppg; Thomas, 9.0 rpg; Snow, 6.8 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 2-2. Each team won once on the road. Though Wallace averaged 14.3 boards to go with his 5.3 blocks per game, the Sixers had the rebounding edge (165-158) in the series. Iverson averaged 22 points for Philadelphia, while Hamilton led Detroit with 19 points per game. Billups was held to 12 points in both of the Pistons’ losses and totaled 48 in their two victories.