INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Pacers coach Rick Carlisle had hoped Allen Iverson would be worn out.
Not a chance.
Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers lighting quick guard who never seems to tire, had enough energy Friday night to score 16 fourth-quarter points and rally the Philadelphia 76ers to a critical 90-86 victory at over Indiana.
Iverson finished with 43 points, seven assists and four rebounds just one day after playing 53 minutes against Miami.
“I understood we had to play back-to-back and we’ve got four in five nights,” Iverson said. “All I thought about was just going out there and competing, I didn’t think about being tired.”
It was a typical Iverson performance.
He hit 16-of-30 shots, 9-of-11 free throws and was so quick off the dribble that the Pacers constantly committed fouls.
If Iverson was tired, it certainly didn’t show—especially late when he accounted for all but eight of Philadelphia’s 24 fourth-quarter points.
The victory not only gave Philadelphia a four-game sweep of its season series with the Pacers but also allowed the 76ers to take a one-game lead over Cleveland for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland’s 119-111 loss to Washington was a double blow to the Pacers, who lost for just the second time in 10 games. They entered Friday night tied with the Wizards for the No. 5 seed and one game behind Chicago for the No. 4 spot and homecourt advantage in the first round. But the Wizards and Bulls both won, dropping Indiana into the No. 6 slot.
The Pacers were led by Stephen Jackson, who had 17 of his 21 points in the first quarter, and Anthony Johnson, who finished with 20 points. Reggie Miller had 13 but missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with 32 seconds left and a 3 that would have tied it with 5 seconds left.
“As far as seeding and positioning, all that kind of stuff, the one major thing is trying to get homecourt advantage in the first round,” Johnson said. “At the same time, playoffs is when men show up to play and you’ve got to get it done at home and on the road.”
Lately, the Pacers have answered nearly every challenge.
Iverson changed the equation Friday night with a first-half flurry that got the Pacers into foul trouble and a late burst that left the Pacers almost breathless.
He drove, hit runners, spotted up for two 3-pointers and routinely decimated the Pacers defense. With the game still in doubt, the NBA’s leading scorer delivered the dagger—spotting up from the top of the key with 8.8 seconds left to give the 76ers an 89-86 lead.
Davis and Dalembert were entangled while battling for a rebound midway through the third quarter and drew a double foul. After the whistle, Davis chased Dalembert across the lane, his hand cocked for a punch. No punches were thrown but the players shoved and both were ejected.
“I just saw Dale Davis going toward him,” Iverson said. “I didn’t think Sam should have gotten thrown out of that game for protecting himself, but the referee made the call and you’ve got to live with that.”
The bigger problem for Indiana was Iverson, who got help from Chris Webber. Webber finished with 21 points and eight rebounds.
But it was Iverson who rallied the 76ers from a 74-70 deficit with 10:16 left. He tied the score by hitting a driving layup and a 10-footer—a sequence that sparked a 10-3 run that gave Philadelphia an 80-77 lead.
The Pacers came back, retaking the lead 86-84 when Johnson made two free throws with 1:02 to go.
But Webber completed a three-point play, and after Miller’s 3-pointer rolled off the rim, Iverson hit the jumper from the top of the key with 8.8 seconds left to seal the win.
“I had all kinds of good looks tonight, it just didn’t go down for me,” Miller said. “We all know how tough he (Iverson) is and durable he is. He’s given us problems over the years, especially this year he’s played great against us.”
Philadelphia is the only Eastern Conference team the Pacers have not beaten this season. … Iverson has now scored at least 20 points in 55 straight games, but his string of three straight double-doubles ended Friday. … Indiana’s Austin Croshere had a season-high 15 rebounds. … The Pacers lost for just the second time in 10 games and for only the fifth time in their last 19 home games. … Philadelphia, which made its last 28 free throws against Miami on Thursday, made its first two Friday before Iverson’s miss ended the streak at 30 with 1:28 left in the first quarter.