CLEVELAND (AP)—Allen Iverson went back to breaking his opponents ankles.
Iverson scored 34 points with nine assists in his return to the starting lineup and did what he almost always does against Cleveland, leading the Philadelphia 76ers over the Cavaliers 100-95 on Saturday night.
Iverson, who has had some of his biggest games against the Cavs, missed the previous four games with bad ankles. But all it took was another game in Cleveland and a few patented crossover dribbles to make the All-Star guard feel better.
“I was like a kid in a candy store,” said Iverson, who added five rebounds, four steals and made all 14 free throws in 46 minutes. “It felt like the first game of the season because I was excited to be back.”
LeBron James scored 31 points to lead the Cavaliers, who lost their second straight following a seven-game winning streak. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 26 points and Drew Gooden added 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 50 seconds left.
That’s when Iverson, who came in averaging 32.1 points in 14 games in Cleveland, made a free throw to put the Sixers ahead 95-89. After a lane violation on his second attempt, the Sixers won a jump ball and Webber iced it by drilling a 17-foot jumper with 30 seconds remaining.
“It wasn’t a good effort by us,” James said. “I guess we were getting ready for the Super Bowl instead of worrying about the Sixers.”
As usual, Iverson sparked Philadelphia, which was playing the second game of a back-to-back following a loss to Detroit on Friday. The speedy guard, who changed sneakers early in the game, showed no ill effects from a sprained left ankle or bone bruise in his right ankle as he blazed up, down and around Cleveland’s defense.
“Once he got his rhythm, he was back doing the things that he normally does,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “The impact he has on the game itself is unreal.”
Iverson, who came in second in the league in scoring, has recorded at least 30 points in 10 of 11 games.
“He’s very tough,” said James, who asked Cavs coach Mike Brown to let him guard Iverson in the fourth quarter. “He does so much out there and he can get up a shot at any time.”
The Sixers led by five points after three and were only up 83-79 when Webber and Iverson hit consecutive jumpers and Andre Iguodala made two free throws to make it 89-80 with 5:37 left.
Cleveland was still within seven when Dalembert swatted an inside shot by Gooden, who complained he was fouled. Iguodala followed with a bucket to put the Sixers ahead 93-84.
The Cavs were in control early and led by 14 in the first half when they got sloppy, turning the ball over and allowing the Sixers to go on a 14-2 run to close within 52-50 at half.
“We can’t make unforced turnovers,” Brown said. “Those led to easy baskets at the other end.”
Cleveland had 11 turnovers in the second period, which ended with Iverson biting his lip after thinking he got fouled on a drive. The play came moments after he was slapped with a technical foul by referee Bill Spooner, who didn’t appreciate the way the Sixers guard laughed at him after a call.
Dalembert, the league leader in blocks, added five. … Cavs F Ira Newble spent his fifth day in the hospital with an infection on his face. Brown visited Newble at the Cleveland Clinic and reported that his face was still swollen but that Newble’s spirits were good. … Brown is taking his family to the Super Bowl on Sunday as guests of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who lives in the Detroit area. Brown said he’s picking Pittsburgh since his younger brother, Anthony, played right tackle for the Steelers. … Philadelphia’s trade of C Steven Hunter to New Orleans is on hold after he reportedly failed his physical. Sixers assistant GM Tony DiLeo said “doctors are still talking, that’s the holdup.” … Ilgauskas was thrilled to see he was quoted in this week’s Sports Illustrated. He was particularly happy about an accompanying photo of him that showed he had spent time in the weight room. “Look at those arms,” he said.