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Iverson heats up for 21 in the third, then fades

1/25/2004

CLEVELAND (AP) -- While LeBron James has rested his ankle, his
team has gotten a whole lot better.

Eric Williams scored 20 points, Dajuan Wagner added 17 and the
Cleveland Cavaliers again played well without James, beating the
Philadelphia 76ers 95-87 on Saturday night.

Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavs improved
to 2-1 without James, their rookie star and leading scorer who
missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle.

James is expected to return to the lineup Monday against
Orlando, and when he comes back, Cavaliers coach Paul Silas expects
his team to take off.

"Once we get 'Bron back," Silas said, "I can now see a bright
future. All's well right now."

Cleveland (15-28), which went 17-65 a year ago, didn't get its
15th win last season until April 5.

"We're gaining a lot of confidence," guard Kevin Ollie said.
"Earlier this season, we had some tough defeats. But tonight we
made some big shots and made some big plays when we had to."

Allen Iverson scored 32 points -- 21 in the third quarter -- for
Philadelphia, which slashed a 19-point deficit to six late in the
period. However, Iverson, the NBA's leading scorer didn't get his
first points of the fourth until there was just 33.8 seconds left.

Before that basket, Iverson missed his three attempts of the
quarter as he was hounded by both Wagner and Jeff McInnis, who
played his first game for Cleveland.

Iverson played with a badly bruised left hand and a sore finger
on his right hand.

"I've been struggling with my rhythm," said Iverson, who went
12-for-29 from the field. "I finally caught fire there in the
third quarter. I had it going."

But the Cavs made it tough on him in the fourth, especially
McInnis, who was brought to Cleveland for his defense as much as
for his playmaking.

"Once we put Jeff on A.I., he slowed him down a bit," Silas
said. "That was big."

McInnis only had practiced once with the Cavs, who acquired him
Wednesday in a trade with Portland for Darius Miles. But he started
and finished with nine points and six assists in 35 minutes.

"It feels good to get that first win," McInnis said.

Glenn Robinson had 20 points for the injury-riddled Sixers, who
have lost six of eight. Philadelphia played without starters
Derrick Coleman and Kenny Thomas, who were both hurt in a loss to
Orlando on Friday.

"It's wearing on us somewhat," said Sixers coach Randy Ayers,
who expects Thomas (scratched cornea) to be back on Tuesday. "We
have to keep working."

Cleveland's bench outscored Philly's 32-14.

The Cavs led by 18 in the third but appeared to be on their way
to blowing another big lead when they missed their first 10 shots
of the fourth quarter.

But Wagner, who sat out Cleveland's first 33 games with a knee
injury, buried a 3-pointer to make it 82-72. Then, following a
steal, he drove past Robinson on the baseline to drop in a high
floater.

"It's hard to guard a guy like him," Williams said of his
teammate, who the Cavs think can be a big-time scorer. "He can get
to the basket so well. He has the in-between game with the floater
and his 3s have come along."

With Iverson unable to shake free on offense, Robinson scored
nine straight points and the Sixers crept within 90-85 with 58.5
seconds to play.

However, the Cavs, who gave away several wins earlier this
season with fourth-quarter collapses, finished strong by making
five of six free throws in the final 52 seconds to close it out.

"The guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts and a lot of
toughness," Silas said. "I really like the mix right now."

The Cavs force fed McInnis their offense during his first
practice on Friday, and he showed he's a fast learner as he scored
four points and handed out four assists to help Cleveland take a
30-18 lead after one.

Game notes
James ran on his ankle Saturday for the first time since
rolling it a week ago and says he may play against the Magic.
"It's getting there," James said. ... Only three Sixers -- Samuel
Dalembert, John Salmons and Eric Snow -- have played in every game
this season. ... Ayers said he'll give James serious consideration
when Eastern Conference coaches vote for All-Star reserves. "I
think a lot of people appreciate his game," said Ayers, who
wouldn't reveal whether he would give James a vote. "He's on
everybody's ballot." ... Miles, who wore No. 21 in Cleveland, is
wearing 23 in Portland -- a salute to his close friend James, who
moved into Miles' old locker at Gund Arena.