PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Bothered by bum thumbs, Allen Iverson used
nifty assists instead of slash-and-crash moves to help the
Philadelphia 76ers make a nice pass in the standings.
Iverson had 23 points and a career-high 16 assists to help the
76ers sweep the season series against Cleveland with a 103-98
victory Friday night and leapfrog the Cavaliers into seventh place
in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Iverson sprained both his thumbs against the Cavaliers and said
it affected his shot all game. It was hard to tell when Iverson hit
a jumper with 8.5 seconds left that gave the Sixers a needed
"As soon it left my hand, I knew it was good," said Iverson,
who shot 9-for-30. "Even with my hand hurting the way it was, I
tried to let it go and not think about the pain."
Barring a collapse or a season-ending hot streak from a couple
of teams lower in the standings, the Sixers are in good shape with
seven games left to return to the postseason after a one-year
"We're in it," said Iverson, who chipped a bone in his left
thumb in March. "It is our spot right now. If we don't play
basketball then we will lose it. We understand what's going on. We
understand the severity of all these games coming up."
While both Cleveland and Philadelphia are 38-37, the Sixers have
the tiebreaker with three wins against the Cavaliers this year.
They beat them 98-89 on March 4 and 93-81 on March 18.
With a season-high three-game winning streak, the Sixers are
even holding out hope they can catch Boston in the Atlantic
Division, though that seems unlikely trailing the Celtics by 3
"Our whole thing is basically getting in. If we get in, we feel
like the sky's the limit," Iverson said.
Samuel Dalembert had 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Marc Jackson
scored 24 points for the Sixers. Chris Webber missed his fourth
straight game with a sprained left shoulder and will not travel
with the team for Saturday's game at Washington.
Coach Jim O'Brien said Webber could return for Tuesday's game
LeBron James scored 37 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the
Cavaliers and Drew Gooden added 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Cleveland played without Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who dislocated his
right ring finger in a loss to New Jersey on Tuesday.
The fading Cavs have lost three straight and five of six, and
the Nets are 1½ games back of the eighth seed in the East.
"We're still in the playoffs right now, so we just have to keep
fighting," James said.
"I feel like if we played like we played tonight, we can win a
lot of ballgames."
With Eagles training camp months away and the Phillies already
in a funk, this is the time for the Sixers to seize the city's
sports spotlight. They looked ready while playing in front of only
the seventh sellout this season.
After having 20-point leads sliced to single digits before
winning their last two games, the Sixers nearly let an 11-point
lead with 2:19 left get away.
Gooden sank a 3-pointer and Jeff McInnis converted a three-point
play as part of a 10-2 run that got the Cavaliers to 100-98 with 30
But Iverson, who compensated for poor shooting by keeping his
teammates involved, buried a jumper just to the left of the free
throw line with 8.5 seconds left that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Kyle Korver added a free throw in the final seconds and the
Sixers held on for the thrilling win.
The Sixers got going in the third quarter, making 13 of 21 shots
and Iverson adding six assists. He usually found Dalembert or
Jackson in the paint for easy layups or big dunks.
Iverson's got his 16th assist late in the fourth, on a bounce
pass to Jackson. Jackson looked around, found nowhere to pass and
hit the open jumper just to the right of the line for a 99-88 lead.
"He showed an unbelievable amount of savvy to know there are
other ways to win without scoring," O'Brien said. "It was great
leadership by Allen to change gears."
Iverson's desperation heave right before the first half was
caught by Jackson and dunked at the buzzer for a 50-48 lead.
Iverson showed up wearing a throwback of Webber's No. 2
Washington Bullets jersey. Webber participated in a full practice
Thursday and O'Brien thought he might have him in the lineup. "His
ability to get his arms comfortably above his head for shooting and
for rebounding is not there yet," O'Brien said. "Nothing happened
in practice that set him back." ... Eagles RB Brian Westbrook was
at the game. So was former "L.A. Law" actor Corbin Bernsen.
Bernsen was booed when he said he was a Lakers fan. ... Iverson was
whistled for a technical in the third.