With Allen Iverson still trying to regain his form, the Philadelphia 76ers go for their fourth win in six games since his return to the lineup when they meet the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Iverson struggled from the field again with a 9-for-29 performance, but had his highest point total since coming back from a bruised knee with 26 points in an 87-82 win over Orlando on Monday. He hadn’t topped 20 points since scoring 35 at Miami on Dec. 5.
The 6-foot guard, leading the NBA with 27 points per game, is shooting just 37 percent after sitting out 10 straight games. The 76ers went 3-7 in those games but are 3-2 since, including a 97-81 win over Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey on Friday.
“My rhythm is way off. I’m struggling,” said Iverson, who has turned the ball over 32 times in five games.
“It’s frustrating that it’s taking so long for my game to come back. But by being in the league eight years, I’ve been through struggles and I know how to play while struggling.”
After suffering a 94-87 loss to Washington on Saturday—giving the Wizards just their second win in 11 games—the Sixers barely avoided another loss to a struggling team.
Philadelphia missed 14-of-17 shots in the fourth quarter, including its last 10. The Sixers’ final field goal came with 7:32 remaining, but they hung on by hitting eight of 10 free throws and holding the Magic to 21 percent shooting in the quarter.
“We don’t want to put ourselves in a bad position toward the end of the year, fighting for playoff position,” Iverson said “The teams with bad records, we definitely want to get those wins.”
The Sixers, 2-1 away from home since a five-game road slide, close out a three-game road trip against the Mavericks before heading home to play three of their next four.
Dallas escaped with a 127-121 overtime win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday after squandering a six-point lead in the final 10.7 seconds of regulation.
The Mavs had an impressive offensive attack led by 31 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 28 from Steve Nash. Michael Finley scored 25, Antawn Jamison added 23 and Antoine Walker posted a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Dallas, second in the league with a 102.3 scoring average, overcame a 38-point performance from new Knick Stephon Marbury to snap a three-game road losing streak and improve to just 5-13 away from home this season.
“We haven’t been playing too well on the road, and we knew this was a different Knicks team than started the season,” Jamison said.
The Mavs are 16-3 at home in 2003-04 and will try to avoid losing consecutive games at American Airlines Center for the first time since February 2002. They suffered a 92-80 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 12): 76ers - 3rd place, 3 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division. Mavericks - 4th place, 5 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: 76ers - Iverson, 27.0 ppg; Thomas, 9.5 rpg; Snow, 7.1 apg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 20.2 ppg; Walker, 9.4 rpg; Nash, 8.2 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 23; Mavs, 107-94. At Philadelphia, Nowitzki had 30 points and 14 rebounds and Nash added 21 points and 13 assists as Dallas sent the Sixers to their 12th loss in 16 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: 76ers - 8-12 on the road; Mavericks - 16-3 at home.
INJURIES: 76ers - C Todd MacCulloch (illness); C Marc Jackson (finger); G Willie Greene (thumb). Mavericks - F Tariq Abdul-Wahad (knee); G Jon Stefansson (ankle); G Josh Howard (hamstring); F Eduardo Najera (knee).