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Iverson dominates; Billups struggles in return

5/12/2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson's quick feet and smart
decisions couldn't be stopped. Making matters worse for Detroit,
the Pistons got almost nothing on offense from anyone but Richard
Hamilton.

Iverson had 36 points and 11 assists Sunday night, giving
Philadelphia one major, distinct advantage -- a player who could
create with the ball -- as the 76ers evened their second-round
series 2-2 by beating Detroit 95-82 Sunday night.

"That's what makes their team so hard to play; you have to deal
with him and all the chain reactions he causes out there,'' Pistons
coach Rick Carlisle said. "Obviously, we're going to have to do a
better job.''

Chauncey Billups returned to the lineup for Detroit after
missing two games because of a sprained ankle, but the point guard
shot just 1-for-6 and didn't make a drive to the basket all night.

Backup Chucky Atkins had all sorts of difficulty trying to
defend Iverson, whose quickness allowed him to free himself for
jumpers -- or to drive the lane or the baseline, draw extra
defenders and create enough easy baskets to allow Philadelphia to
maintain a comfortable lead throughout.

Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said he called more pick-and-roll
plays that he had in his entire pro coaching career -- quite a
statement, considering this was his 2,277th game as a head coach.

"It was a pick-your-poison thing,'' Iverson said, "and after a
while I wanted to run it every play, because they couldn't adjust
to it.''

Iverson not only had his usual foot speed, he had his shot
working, too, making jumpers on three straight possessions early in
the fourth quarter to give Philadelphia a 70-56 lead. Iverson
finished 13-for-27 from the field, and his 11 assists accounted for
more than half of Philadelphia's total. He scored 15 in the final
quarter.

The series doesn't resume until Wednesday night, giving Billups
two days to rest his sore left ankle -- and Carlisle the same amount
of time to devise a strategy to neutralize Iverson.

"We think we're going to win the whole thing, as far as this
series is concerned,'' Philadelphia's Kenny Thomas said.

Hamilton is the only Detroit defender who's had any luck staying
close to Iverson while chasing him around, but he spent less time
defending Iverson in this game than he did in the three previous
ones.

That probably was a scheme to allow Hamilton to save his energy
for the offensive end, where he was the only Detroit player with
more than two field goals at the start of the fourth quarter.

One problem, though: Atkins got the assignment and was
overmatched.

"It's his ability to get to full speed on his first or second
step -- that's what makes him so much harder to guard than other
people,'' Atkins said. "This guy's at full blast running on his
first or second step.''

Hamilton finished with 30 points and Atkins had 11 for Detroit.
Ben Wallace grabbed 15 rebounds.

Kenny Thomas and Derrick Coleman scored 14 each for
Philadelphia, Aaron McKie added 12 and Eric Snow 11. Iverson also
had five steals and five rebounds.

Corliss Williamson made a layup with 3:31 left to get Detroit's
deficit down to nine, but Iverson answered right back with his
first and only 3-pointer of the night. The Pistons called a
timeout, and Iverson cupped his hand to his ear to rile up the
crowd.

Earlier in the quarter, Iverson hit three jumpers from almost
the exact same spot -- one on a dribble move that shook Atkins, the
second from behind Coleman's pick, and the third on a step-back
move against Hamilton. The last shot gave Philadelphia a 70-56 lead
-- a huge advantage in a series in which offense isn't easy to come
by.

"We got outworked, that's all,'' Wallace said. "We played in
spurts, didn't play a solid game.''

The Sixers played from ahead almost the whole game, slowly
building their margin during the second quarter and taking their
first double-digit lead, 39-29, when Coleman scored inside over
Zeljko Rebraca with 3:53 left before halftime.

Detroit had only one field goal over the final 8½ minutes of the
first half.

Billups hit his first shot of the third quarter, a 3-pointer,
but he followed it with two quick misses and never shot again. He
missed the two previous games because of the sprained ankle.

Game notes
Iverson has led the 76ers in assists in all four games of
this series. ... Carmelo Anthony of the NCAA champion Syracuse
Orangemen attended the game. Anthony is expected to be a top-three
pick in next month's draft. ... Hamilton had seven of Detroit's 19
turnovers, while Atkins had four. ... Pistons assistant Kevin
O'Neill said he has spoken with Toronto general manager Glen
Grunwald about the Raptors' vacant head coaching position. He said
he had no idea what his chances are of getting the job. ... Sixers
F Tyrone Hill strained his right calf in the third quarter and did
not return.