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Sixers fall three back with five to play

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Boston Celtics took control of the
Atlantic Division.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points, including the go-ahead basket in
the final minute, and the Celtics moved closer toward clinching the
division title with a 105-98 victory over second-place Philadelphia
on Tuesday night.

Allen Iverson scored 28 points and Kyle Korver added 17 for the
76ers, who fell three games behind Boston with five games
remaining.

"This was the biggest game to date," said Pierce, who had 13
rebounds. "We had a lot on the line. We're our own worst enemy
right now. It's in our hands to take."

Philadelphia holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference, one game behind Cleveland and one game ahead of
New Jersey.

"It's about as disappointing as it gets," Iverson said.

Antoine Walker had 18 points and Ricky Davis scored 16 for
Boston, which saw a 5½-game lead in the division slip to two games
since March 19.

Back in the lineup after missing one game with two sprained
thumbs, Iverson was 9-for-21 from the field and had 11 assists.

Chris Webber, returning after missing five games with a sprained
left shoulder, wasn't a factor, finishing with eight points and
seven rebounds.

"I wanted to come back and be here for a big game," Webber
said. "Something's got to change. Hopefully, it will get better
soon."

Pierce broke a 98-all tie with an 18-footer with just under one
minute left. After Marc Jackson missed a short jumper, Gary
Payton's free throw gave the Celtics a 101-98 lead.

Jackson missed another jumper and Payton iced it with two free
throws with 19 seconds left.

Walker beat the shot clock with a fallaway baseline jumper that
gave Boston a 96-93 lead with 3 minutes left. After Payton stole
Iverson's pass, Pierce made two free throws to extend the lead.

But Jackson answered with a jumper and Iverson made a layup off
a long pass from Webber to cut it to 98-97. After Pierce missed a
layup, Webber made one free throw to tie it at 98. He missed three
free throws in the fourth quarter.

"At the end of the game, we made more plays than them,"
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "The thing I was most proud of was
execution. We executed as well as we have in a long time."

The Sixers had won the first three meetings against Boston.

Iverson had five assists before taking his first shot, a
successful driving layup with 3:31 left in the first quarter.

A 13-0 run by Boston early in the second quarter put the Celtics
ahead 38-33. Al Jefferson had six points during that stretch,
including consecutive driving layups.

The Sixers answered with a 10-0 run later in the quarter, taking
a 49-44 lead. Jackson had eight of the 10 points, four on free
throws. Philadelphia led 54-50 at halftime.

Fueled by the presence of Iverson and Webber, the Sixers opened
the game with a 13-2 run, capped by a dunk from Samuel Dalembert
off an alley-oop pass by Iverson.

"It was a big win," Davis said. "It was a playoff game, a
chance to keep our edge. This gives us confidence."

Game notes
Payton tied David Robinson for 25th on the NBA's career
scoring list with 20,790 points. ... Celtics guard Delonte West,
who helped Saint Joseph's to a No. 1 ranking during the 2003-04
season, didn't play because of a thumb injury. West chatted with
Hawks coach Phil Martelli courtside before the game. ... The Sixers
are 12-10 since acquiring Webber, including 9-8 with the five-time
All-Star in the lineup. ... Sixers coach Jim O'Brien got a
technical foul in the final minute of the third quarter after
Iverson went down hard on a driving lineup and didn't draw a foul.
... Boston attempted 49 free throws to 30 for Philadelphia. The 40
free throws made by the Celtics were the most against the Sixers
this season.