Philadelphia (23-32) at Los Angeles (33-19)

Fair Currently: Los Angeles, CA
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 10:30 pm EST Fri Feb 20, 2004
  • TV: ESPN, FSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Philadelphia coach Chris Ford is probably glad that he still has Allen Iverson on his team.

Fresh off one of his best offensive performances of the season, Iverson looks to help the Philadelphia 76ers continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings as they visit the Los Angeles Lakers.

Iverson scored 40 points in Philadelphia’s 112-101 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Thursday, just hours after the NBA’s trade deadline came and went without the 76ers shipping him to another team.

The win boosted Philadelphia into a tie with Boston and Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The star guard, who ranks second in the league in scoring (27.7 points per game) behind Orlando’s Tracy McGrady (27.8), went 10-of-24 from the field and made 17 free throws for the Sixers, who snapped a five-game road losing streak.

Iverson was the subject of trade rumors as the deadline approached, with many observers thinking that the 76ers may decide to cut ties with their marquee—and often contentious—player.

“It only bothered me because it bothered my kids,” Iverson said. “I understand it is a business. I don’t lose sleep for things like that. But I’m coming home to Philly.”

Ford, who took over as Philadelphia’s coach on Feb. 10 after Randy Ayers was fired, kept Iverson out of the starting lineup in Tuesday’s 106-85 loss to Denver after Iverson missed practice on Monday.

Iverson, who had a team-high 27 points and season-best 14 assists against the Nuggets, wasn’t shy about expressing his displeasure over his benching, adding fuel to the trade rumors.

“There was a lot of interest,” said general manager Billy King, who also passed on the chance to trade point guard Eric Snow to Orlando for Gordan Giricek and Juwan Howard. “If you are going to make a deal, you’ve got to make sure things are best for you. You don’t make deals just to make them.”

The Lakers are coming off Wednesday’s 100-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors, their second straight win and fourth in five games. Shaquille O’Neal had 31 points and 16 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant scored 35 points for Los Angeles.

Gary Payton was ejected in the third quarter after fighting with Speedy Claxton and finished with just seven points—more than anyone else on the team aside from O’Neal and Bryant.

O’Neal and Bryant scored 27 of the Lakers’ final 29 points over the final 16 minutes.

“On any given night, we can do that,” O’Neal said. “But I can’t wait until we get back to full strength.”

Forward Karl Malone is on the injured list with a sprained knee ligament.

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