PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Allen Iverson gave the crowd an electrifying performance to remember. Then the fans returned the favor with raucous ovations he won’t soon forget.
“That’s when you get the goose bumps,” Iverson said. “You honestly don’t really feel it when the shots are going down. You don’t ever get the goose bumps until the fans start to appreciate what you’re doing out there.”
The Philadelphia star scored 60 points, a career high and the most in the NBA this season, to lead the 76ers to a 112-99 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
Iverson, averaging an NBA-leading 29.7 points, was 17-of-36 from the field and made 24 of 27 free throws. His previous high was 58 against Houston on Jan. 15, 2002.
“I score a career high and we won the game,” Iverson said. “That’s how you draw it up in your dreams.”
It was the first 60-point game in the NBA since Tracy McGrady scored 62 for Orlando against Washington on March 10, 2004, Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal had the previous high in the NBA this season, scoring 55 points against Milwaukee on Jan. 4.
Iverson, who had 54- and 51-point performances in consecutive games in December, also had the fourth-highest total in 76ers’ history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain.
Iverson scored 29 points in the first half, banging and crashing all over the court while helping the 76ers turn it into a rout.
After Orlando went on a mini-run in the third that cut a 25-point deficit to 11, Iverson hit a 3-pointer from the right side as time expired to reach 40.
Then Iverson earned a standing ovation for points 50 and 51.
He stole the ball and was fouled hard on a layup attempt, slamming against the floor as he seemingly always does. The crowd erupted and stood in appreciation for Iverson, who went to the line and made a couple of free throws.
It was the same for points 59 and 60—two more free throws. The fans were on their feet each time Iverson had the ball in the fourth quarter, giving a routine game the feel of a Game 7.
“When they’re up, when they’re making noise and they’re feeling good, that makes you feel good, that makes you feel good about people coming out to see you,” Iverson said. “It’s something they might remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.”
The game certainly left an impression on Sixers coach Jim O’Brien.
“I’ve never witnessed a performance like this,” O’Brien said. “This is the greatest performance I’ve ever witnessed.”
Iverson was consistent from the start, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 11 in the third, and 20 in the fourth. Eleven of his fourth-quarter points came from the line.
“It was just attacking, attacking, attacking all night,” Iverson said. “I guess that’s why I went to the free-throw line as much as I did. I didn’t settle for jump shots.”
The 76ers pulled within one game of Boston for the Atlantic Division lead and are one game under .500 (25-26). They haven’t been at .500 since they were 6-6 on Nov. 26 and haven’t had a winning record since they were 4-2 on Nov. 14.
Maybe Philadelphia needs more 40-point games from Iverson—the 76ers are 5-1 when he reaches that mark this season. Iverson also had his ninth 50-point regular-season game. He’s scored 50-plus three times in the playoffs.
“It was one of those nights from a superstar performer,” said Magic coach Johnny Davis, who coached Iverson in his rookie season (1996-97). “We had different defenders on him all night. He just had a dominant game.”
Iverson also matched the team record for free throws made, set by Willie Burton in 1994. … Chamberlain had 62- and 65-point games for the 76ers in 1966 and set the franchise record of 68 in 1967 against Chicago. He set the NBA record of 100 for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962 against New York. … The 76ers activated C Brian Skinner and placed F Kedrick Brown on the injured list. … The Sixers had a season-high 62 in the first half. … Eighth-ranked Syracuse beat No. 22 Villanova 90-75 in an afternoon game at the Wachovia Center. The two games set a single-day attendance record at the arena with 40,355 fans. The previous mark of 40,348 was set in 1997 when the Flyers and 76ers played on the same day.