PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson spent his summer worrying
Philadelphia would trade him.
Instead, he was back with the 76ers for another opener. But with
livelier defense and more confidence down the stretch, it seemed to
Iverson as if he was with a whole new team.
"If you play great defense, you get a chance to make your
offense better," Iverson said. "That's how we'll get better, by
playing defense. If we can rebound the basketball, I don't think
nobody can deal with us."
Maybe the Sixers didn't have to change their roster to be a
better team after all.
With nearly the entire roster back from a team that missed the
playoffs for the second time in three seasons and had no
significant additions, not much was expected this season from the
And with the Eagles underachieving and the Flyers shaking up
their personnel, there was little buzz for the Sixers opener,
translating into plenty of empty seats, especially in the upper
The Sixers led by as many as 23 late in the third quarter and
were poised to turn this one into a blowout until the familiar
problem of wasting large leads happened again.
In last season's opener, the Sixers squandered a late
double-digit lead in the final minutes and lost in overtime,
setting the tone for a familiar pattern the rest of the year. Not
"After last year's first game, this is a step in the right
direction," coach Maurice Cheeks said.
But not before the Sixers took a brief detour toward a more
The Hawks chipped away and pulled to 81-71 late in the fourth on
Childress' jumper. The Sixers handed Atlanta more opportunities, on
a shot clock violation, and missed shots by Iverson and Webber on
the same possession, but the Hawks went cold down the stretch and
didn't convert either of those chances.
Not surprising. They are the Hawks.
Webber then hit a 17-footer and Dalembert dunked. The lead was
back to 15 and the Sixers were back on their way.
"I think we used up too much energy to get it to 10,"
Childress said. "It's frustrating because it was the first game of
the season and we came out flat."
Defense was a training camp priority for the Sixers after pretty
much blowing a playoff spot because they couldn't play any last
season. The results were promising: Philadelphia held the Hawks to
33 percent shooting and outrebounded them 47-42.
"It's the first game, you know?" Webber said, his twinkle, if
not his shooting (4-for-16), in midseason form. "We'll see how it
goes after that."
Having an early cushion certainly helped the Sixers survive the
Dalembert hit a turnaround jumper to start a 15-0 run and help
the Sixers dash to a 21-4 lead. Iverson hit a 3-pointer during the
spurt and Iguodala converted a rare four-point play that energized
The Hawks went on a couple of runs here and there, but Iverson
hit a jumper from the left wing in the waning seconds to give the
Sixers a 49-35 halftime lead.
"We couldn't make shots early in the game, dug a hole and
couldn't climb back," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
Iverson was back for his 11th season in Philadelphia and didn't
look like he lost a step. Iverson scored 30-plus points in a game
last season a whopping 49 times and might be able to top that this
year now that veteran Kevin Ollie is starting with Iverson in the
backcourt and assuming the true point guard role.
Iverson had a solid overall game, going 9-for-21 from the floor,
13-for-14 from the free throw line with six assists.
Webber addressed the crowd before the game, asking the fans
for their support and promising a "lot more good times than bad."
Webber and Iverson were sharply criticized last season for missing
the home finale's Fan Appreciation Night. .. Atlanta F Lorenzen
Wright was suspended for the game for his role in a preseason
fight. ... What's this? Iverson actually in agreement with the
media? Instead of doing his postgame newser at the podium, he sat
in front of his locker and was mobbed by the media. Iverson wants
his relaxed podium setting back. "If you guys cause a whole bunch
of commotion, we don't have to do it like this no more," he said.
"We can get this straight. All of us have to petition."