PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Allen Iverson hasn’t changed the aggressive way he plays, even with a shift this year to point guard.
Coach Jim O’Brien wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I don’t want him to have a set-up point guard mentality,” O’Brien said. “You can’t tell a guy like Allen to go away from what’s instinctive.”
The Sixers have won the first three games on a season-long five-game homestand, though this was the first one they wrapped up in regulation.
After sending a game against New Jersey into overtime on a basket in the final seconds, then winning a game against Indiana with a shot at the buzzer, Iverson finished this one off early.
He had five assists in the third quarter, including two straight on baskets to Jackson and Andre Iguodala, that snapped a tie game and led a decisive 17-9 run.
Iverson shook off tendinitis in his left Achilles’ tendon and didn’t seem bothered by a sore left arm hurt after he slammed into the base of the basket late in the third quarter.
An MRI on the ankle Saturday revealed the tendinitis.
“It bothered me throughout the game,” he said. “I tried to keep it as loose as I could.”
It never showed on the court.
O’Brien and Iverson decided during the summer a position switch was necessary to turn Philadelphia into more of an up-tempo, wide-open offense— while keeping the five-time All-Star a scoring threat.
“I’m going to score, that’s what I do,” he said. “I’d be taking something away from my team if I didn’t look to score.”
Grant Hill led the Magic with 18 points, Pat Garrity added 14 and No. 1 draft pick Dwight Howard had 14 rebounds. Steve Francis, who came in averaging 20.8 points on 42 percent shooting, scored 14 points.
Former Saint Joseph’s standout Jameer Nelson scored two points in 16 minutes for the Magic.
Nelson certainly wasn’t forgotten by the fans who made it sound like a Saint Joseph’s game at Hawk Hill whenever he had the ball.
With fans chanting Nelson’s name during pregame warmups, the little guard got a standing ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter. Iverson slapped him on the back and shook his hand, but Nelson offered no reaction to the wild applause.
Francis fed Nelson a crisp pass in the lane for an easy, right-handed layup with 44 seconds left in the quarter. That was Nelson’s only basket of the game.
“I heard the chants and I really appreciated it,” Nelson said. “I heard them calling my name. That’s those Saint Joe’s fans.”
Saint Joe’s sold more than 1,400 tickets and 14 buses made the short drive down the road from campus to the game.
It was Iverson, though, who gave the fans their money’s worth.
Iverson had perhaps his most consistent game since moving back to point guard this season. He was on target with his shot (12-for-25) and kept his teammates involved, especially two highlight passes to the athletic, high-flying Iguodala. The rookie from Arizona finished with 11 points.
Iverson had a scare in the third when he fell out of bounds driving for a baseline layup and slammed hard into the post. He momentarily bent over and grimaced while shaking his left arm.
He sat out for a couple of minutes, but returned and promptly buried a 16-footer and had an alley-oop assist to Samuel Dalembert.
Dalembert returned to the lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury. … The Sixers’ 68-60 lead was their first after three quarters this year. … O’Brien was a three-year starter at Saint Joe’s. “I’m thrilled for Jameer and Delonte West,” he said. “They really made every alum proud of what they accomplished.” … Iverson had his 59th career double-double.