PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Allen Iverson knew to expect the nonstop Eagles chants. He made sure the 76ers received a few cheers, too.
Neither team had much of a cushion in the final quarter, leading to a thrilling final few minutes and giving the sparse home crowd something to root for other than the Philadelphia Eagles’ appearance in the Super Bowl a few hours later.
“It’s just good to see people support them the way they did,” Iverson said. “I expected that, knowing that the game was going to be today. It’s just good to see they have the support like that.”
With tipoff only a few hours before the start of the Super Bowl, there were thousands of empty seats, plenty of fans in Eagles jerseys and the “E-A-G-L-E-S!” chant was out in full force in the second half. Each side of the arena took turns trying to outshout the other with the earsplitting rally yell.
Finally, someone shouted, “What about the Sixers?”
Few cared, though one front-row fan held a sign that read “I chose A.I. over T.O.”
Unlike Terrell Owens, there was no “will he or won’t he play” drama with Iverson, who needed X-rays Friday on his sprained left shoulder. He was in the starting lineup, banging and crashing like he always does. When he made a steal late in the fourth, it generated the first sustained chant for the Sixers.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced that,” guard Aaron McKie said of the pro-Eagles crowd.
It wasn’t the first time the Sixers experienced Iverson saving the game, either.
Iverson put the Sixers ahead 104-101 on a 3-pointer with 1:44 left only to have the Clippers’ Bobby Simmons answer with a three-point play.
Iverson was fouled on the next possession by Elton Brand and calmly made the go-ahead free throws, turning the attention of a rabid Eagles crowd back to the Sixers.
The Clippers were then called for a shot-clock violation, but got another chance to tie when Corliss Williamson missed for Philly.
Rick Brunson went for the win, but his 3-point attempt was off the mark. Iverson grabbed the ball, hurled it into the air and it landed in the crowd.
Brunson, who had 11 assists off the bench, didn’t question his decision to shoot for the win instead of the tie because he had an open look.
“I had to make a decision, go inside or take the shot. Unfortunately, it didn’t go down,” he said. “I’m not scared of taking the shot. I’ll be the goat.”
The Sixers completed a 3-1 homestand and moved within one game of .500 overall (23-24).
“It’s starting to feel like a home-court advantage to us,” Sixers coach Jim O’Brien said.
Simmons led the Clippers with 27 points, while Brand had 21 and Chris Kaman 18.
There were 22 lead changes and 23 ties. The Sixers had the biggest lead— nine points.
Philly fans might be surprised when they come out of their Eagles haze to find a Sixers team still in the thick of the playoff race thanks to a weak Atlantic Division.
Corey Maggette, Los Angeles’ leading scorer, missed his fifth consecutive game with a collarbone injury. Kerry Kittles was also out with a strained right groin. … Brunson stopped by Temple’s practice before the game to visit his college coach, John Chaney. “He had nothing to say to me,” Brunson said, smiling. “He was cussing his kids out.” … O’Brien returned to the bench after missing Friday’s game with the flu. … The crowd of 15,056 was not the lowest of the season, though it was below Philadelphia’s average of 16,987.