Getting to the .500 mark has been easy for the Philadelphia 76ers. Staying there hasn’t.
The Sixers try to return to the break-even mark yet again when they host the Boston Celtics in an Atlantic Division matchup.
Philadelphia has been at .500 eight times in 35 games this season, including three times in the last two weeks. On Friday night, the second-place Sixers will get a chance to even their record again, as a 3-6 stretch has dropped them to 17-18, 3 1/2 games behind division-leading New Jersey.
In a 110-102 loss to Utah on Wednesday, Allen Iverson topped the 40-point mark for the second straight game and ninth time this season with 46, but the streaking Jazz shot 58.8 percent from the field and had a 44-6 advantage in points off the bench.
Iverson made 16 of 25 field-goal attempts and added nine assists, two days after he scored 41 points on 15- of-25 shooting in Monday’s 107-98 win over Seattle.
“It’s frustrating to lose a game,” said Iverson. “I don’t care if I play well or play bad. It’s losing the game. That’s the worst part of it.”
The Sixers have been largely unable to take advantage of Iverson’s big games, going 4-5 when he scores 40 or more points. Coach Maurice Cheeks attributes those struggles to poor defense, as his team is allowing 102.3 points per game, 29th in the NBA.
Philadelphia is 10-3 this season when holding opponents under 100 points and 7-15 when it allows 100 or more.
“That’s not the best defense you can play,” Cheeks said. “Our defense just has to get better in order for us to win games. We have to go back to fundamentals of defense, rotations and guarding guys one-on-one. You have to want to play defense.”
Iverson has averaged 26.4 points in 36 games against the Celtics.
Boston snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday with a 98-94 win over Atlanta, and looks to win consecutive games for just the second time this season.
The Celtics last won two in a row Dec. 19-21, and are 1-12 following a win.
Atlanta built a 16-point lead in the second quarter before the Celtics took control.
“Guys just sucked it up and we got stops,” Davis said. “The last three, four games, we’ve just been battling back. That’s one thing, this team never gives up.”
Boston shot 52.1 percent from the field and allowed only 32 second-half points.
Pierce reached the 13,000-point mark and moved past Eddie Jones for 19th place among active players with 13,012.
Pierce is averaging 25.8 points in 33 games against the 76ers.
Boston has won the last two meetings with Philadelphia, but the Sixers are 8-4 in their last 12 games against the Celtics at home.