Iverson outplayed Bryant in an anticipated matchup of the
league's leading scorers, scoring 34 points and sinking the winner
with 22.2 seconds left to lead the 76ers to an 85-81 win over the
Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Iverson -- stumbling in the fourth quarter after he missed an
easy layup, two free throws and was whistled for traveling --
stepped just inside the 3-point arc and buried a jumper in the
final seconds for an 83-81 lead.
Bryant missed a jumper over Iguodala with about 5 seconds left,
and Iverson made two free throws to seal Philadelphia's third
straight win after losing its first three.
Kyle Korver and John Salmons each hit critical 3-pointers in the
final 2½ minutes to pad the Sixers' lead, but it wasn't enough once
Bryant finally got going.
Unable to find his shot all game against Iguodala's sticky D,
Bryant came through in the final minute with a three-point play and
then another basket with 37.8 seconds left to rally the Lakers and
tie the score at 81.
But Iverson made up for a small stretch of miscues that nearly
cost the Sixers, hitting a jumper that sent the crowd into a
"Once they made one breakdown, they left me open and I got a
good look at it," Iverson said.
Bryant came in averaging a league-high 34.8 points, but was held
in check by Iguodala on 7-for-27 shooting.
"That's something we expect from Dre every night," Iverson
said. "We know he has the ability to shut people down."
Chris Mihm picked up the slack inside with 20 points, and Lamar
Odom added 16.
Iverson -- second in the league behind Bryant with 29.8 points --
fired up the Sixers and started a rally late in the fourth when he
was challenged on his way to the basket.
After a rare miss on an uncontested fastbreak layup on the
previous possession, Iverson was staggered on a hard foul the next
time down by Sasha Vujacic. Vujacic threw his arm back and
connected with Iverson in the neck, sending the feisty All-Star
into a fit. He needed to be restrained from a possible fight.
Both players were whistled for technicals, so Iverson attempted
only two free throws for the shot, and he paced around the court,
agitated, before going to the line.
After he sank the first one, he turned to his left and glared at
Vujacic. He hit the second to pull the Sixers to 69-66.
Iverson added two more free throws the next time down and Chris
Webber followed with a spin move to give the Sixers a 70-69 lead.
But Iverson missed two free throws with the Sixers holding a
78-74 lead and traveled with 52 seconds left, allowing Bryant to
make the game-tying running jumper.
Bryant missed his first eight shots before going up-and-under
for his first bucket late in the second quarter. Bryant added
another before the halftime buzzer to give the Lakers a 46-42 lead.
He was stifled in the first half (3-for-14) by Iguodala.
"That was a game I was forced to take a lot of shots with a
hand in my face," Bryant said.
Iguodala might have concentrated too much on defense, because he
was a non-factor offensively until his baseline jumper gave the
Sixers a 73-71 lead. Iguodala made another timely play when Bryant
was hit with an offensive foul for pushing off on the next
Iguodala scored five points, but he finished with 11 rebounds.
"I had some shots I should have made," Bryant said. "We had
difficulty down the stretch. We weren't able to capitalize on some
While Bryant struggled, the Lakers relied on Mihm. The 7-foot
center with the meager 6.8 points per average played outstanding,
shooting 8-for-12 from the floor and finishing with nine rebounds.
Lakers G Aaron McKie got a standing ovation in his return
to Philadelphia. McKie, who played at Temple and scored 4,143
points in seven-plus seasons with the 76ers, was averaging only 5.3
minutes and 0.5 points this season. "Just coming in this locker
room alone is strange to me," McKie said. "I'm pulling for those
guys (the Sixers), but at the same time we need to win." ... While
McKie was cheered, Bryant was booed, the way he always is when he
returns home. Bryant, who went to nearby Lower Merion High School,
said the boos don't bother him. "I love it," he said. "I love
it. I love it. I mean, I love it. This is where it all began for
me." ... NBA referee Joe Crawford worked his 2,000th career game,
joining four other refs to reach that mark.