PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Allen Iverson was out and Philadelphia sure didn’t look like it missed him.
Iverson, second in the NBA with 33.6 points per game, sat out with a sprained left ankle after he was injured in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s loss against Orlando. Iverson is day-to-day and will not make the trip to Orlando for Sunday’s game.
“Everyone had to raise their game a little higher and I thought everyone did,” coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Cheeks and the rest of the Sixers deflected numerous questions about whether the Sixers passed more, got Webber involved more and played better team ball because Iverson did not play.
Kevin Ollie logged 38 minutes in place of Iverson, Salmons also played 38 and the duo combined for 12 of Philadelphia’s 22 assists. Salmons also had season highs with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Salmons said everyone was active on offense, though he couldn’t find fault with Iverson for scoring like he does.
“When he’s in a groove, he’s in a groove. Can’t nobody stop him, can’t nobody stop him,” Salmons said.
Samuel Dalembert had 15 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Sixers, who played with the kind of defensive toughness Cheeks has preached all season. The Sixers showed glimpses of it in a brief two-game streak last week only to revert to their old ways the last two games.
But they enjoyed a 51-37 rebounding edge for one of the few times this season, held the Knicks to only 35 percent shooting and allowed the fewest points scored against them this year. They won for the fourth time in five games.
“Any time you’re missing a player, it’s going to be different,” Webber said. “Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know.”
Then again, they were playing the woeful Knicks.
“Story of our season,” coach Larry Brown said. “When teams make a run at us, it’s very hard to find the competitive spirit you need to get back in games.”
Marbury’s 3-pointer pulled the Knicks to 79-71 late in the game after they had trailed by double digits since midway through the second quarter. Andre Iguodala, who scored 16 points, hit a 3 with 2 minutes left that pushed the lead back to 13 and Philadelphia hung on from there.
“I wouldn’t view it as guys aren’t showing up because they’re just not playing hard,” Marbury said. “I would just say that it just wasn’t there. Some nights you just don’t have it.”
Instead of relying on Iverson to carry them, the Sixers got scoring from four different players during a game-changing 18-3 run late in the second quarter that opened up a 14-point lead.
An encouraging sign for sure, but Cheeks didn’t expect any changes once Iverson returned.
“If you don’t allow him to utilize his talents, you’re not letting him be the player he can be,” Cheeks said.
Defense keyed the run, with the Sixers scoring nearly basket because of a rebound or a block. One Dalembert block of a Jackie Butler shot led to a Webber fast-break dunk. One of Webber’s defensive rebounds was fed to Iguodala for another slam.
Philadelphia grabbed all but one rebound in the quarter and shot 62 percent from the floor to take a 53-39 halftime lead.
“The defense was great,” Webber said.
When Marbury, playing with a sore shoulder, had yet another shot blocked by Dalembert—the Sixers center snarled at the Knicks and showed a meanness that’s been missing this season.
Brown said Marbury will have to play through the pain of a shoulder injury. “If he gets hurt, it’s going to be painful for a while,” he said. … Cheeks said he knew Iverson was in pain to miss his first game of the year. “Allen is one of the few guys that can tolerate a lot of pain,” Cheeks said. “If Allen can’t play, you know he’s really, really hurt.” Ollie made his first start since 2004 scored six points. … The Sixers are 17-2 when they win the rebounding battle. … One reporter was cut off when he said, “I know it was the Knicks, but …” “What does that mean?” Cheeks snapped.