The 76ers reached the .500 mark with Thursday’s 83-82 home victory over the Chicago Bulls. With a win Friday, Philadelphia will join Indiana, Detroit, New Orleans and Toronto as the only squads in the East with winning records.
Allen Iverson, the NBA’s leading scorer at 29.1 points per game, scored 35 points Friday, including the game-winning jumper in the final minute.
He is averaging 40.0 points over his last three games.
The Sixers, who have alternated wins and losses in their last six contests, sit atop the mediocre Atlantic despite playing without several players because of injuries.
Starting center Marc Jackson is expected to be out for up to eight weeks after having surgery on his left ring finger Thursday. Guard Willie Green joined the list Thursday with a sprained right thumb.
“We’ve got to play with what we’ve got,” Iverson said. “We can cry about it, but it doesn’t do any good. The team we’re playing against doesn’t care. I’m just happy to be on a team that we have guys who are looking for an opportunity to play when guys get hurt.”
The Sixers have won five straight against the Heat, including an 89-74 season-opening victory at Wachovia on Oct. 28, which made Randy Ayers the first Philadelphia coach to win his debut since Fred Carter in 1993.
Ayers will try to improve to 2-0 against fellow first-year coach Stan Van Gundy, who beat Ayers twice at the collegiate level in 1994-95. Ayers and Van Gundy were coaching at Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively, that season.
For the Heat to end their drought against the Sixers, they must stop Iverson. The 6-foot guard has averaged 28.8 points in the last five meetings with Miami.
The Heat have dropped five of their last seven games overall, including an 87-73 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.
Wade is averaging 13.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, ranking him third in both categories among first-year players.