Work in Sports
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Eddie Jones sat down and Allen Iverson stepped up.
Iverson scored a playoff career-high 40 points and the Philadelphia 76ers took advantage of Jones' foul trouble to upset the Charlotte Hornets, 92-82, in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Iverson ignored shoulder, elbow and toe injuries and overcame a slow start to shoot 13-of-25 from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. He also made 11-of-16 free throws and recorded three steals.
"You can have all the physical talent in the world," Iverson said. "If you don't have heart, you don't have anything."
"Allen feeds off the emotion. He feeds off the hype," 76ers forward Tyrone Hill said. "He just has incredible energy. With sore foot, sore shoulder and sore elbow, it was incredible what he did tonight. I'm never surprised with what he does."
The All-Star guard, who finished second in the NBA in scoring, had 18 points in the third quarter, when the 76ers took control. All but three came after the 7:54 mark, when Sixers guard Eric Snow drew a charge from Jones and sent him to the bench with his fourth foul.
"It was frustrating," Jones said. "I think we were doing a good job keeping control of him, but when he gets hot, he is tough to stop no matter who's guarding him."
The NBA leader in steals and a superb defensive player, Jones was not the primary defender on Iverson. But the All-Star was helping David Wesley, and his departure helped turn Iverson loose.
"Eddie getting into foul trouble definitely hurt us," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "It was tough to contain Iverson with your best defensive player on the bench."
The Sixers took the lead for good on the next possession, opened a 12-point advantage and held on in the fourth quarter behind Iverson, who made three straight baskets.
"When the game is close like that and you get the lead, you have to do everything you can to keep it and increase it," Iverson said. "It was a tough fight."
Snow had 10 points and nine assists for the fifth-seeded Sixers, who won the playoff opener on the road for the second straight season. Last year, Philadelphia upset Orlando in Game One and won the best-of-five series in four games. Game Two is Monday in Charlotte.
"We know winning this game takes a lot of pressure off of us, but we can't relax," Iverson said. "We have to play harder and better every night."
The Sixers held the Hornets to 16 points in the fourth quarter.
They committed just 10 turnovers while forcing 23 and limited Charlotte to 37 percent (24-of-65) shooting. Philadelphia shot 42 percent (33-of-78).
"We forced them to a lot of turnovers and it led to a lot of easy baskets," Sixers coach Larry Brown said.
"We have to take care of the ball," Wesley said. "We had too many turnovers and that hurt us."
Former Sixer Derrick Coleman had 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Hornets, who had just one basket in the final 6 1/2 minutes until a meaningless hoop by Wesley just before the buzzer.
Charlotte got a big boost off the bench from Brad Miller, who had 13 points and six rebounds. His inside basket capped a 7-1 run to start the fourth quarter and pulled the Hornets within 76-73 with 8:29 to play.
The Sixers won a crucial jump ball and Aaron McKie drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead to 83-75 with 4:55 left. Miller sank two free throws but Iverson took over. He banked in a tough drive and then made a high-arcing shot from behind the backboard to push the lead to 10 points with 2:34 remaining.
Jones hit a 3-pointer but Iverson beat Wesley backdoor off a pretty feed from Snow to seal it at 89-80 with 57 seconds left.
George Lynch and Tyrone Hill scored 10 points apiece for the Sixers, who won despite a poor game by Toni Kukoc. Kukoc had just two points on 0-of-5 shooting.
Jones, Wesley and Anthony Mason scored 14 points apiece for the Hornets, who had a 51-36 rebounding advantage. Mason pulled down 15 boards.
The Hornets began by attacking Iverson with Wesley, who scored 10 points in the first quarter. Charlotte scored the first nine points and led throughout the first period. Iverson missed his first four shots until burying a 3-pointer at the horn that cut the deficit to 22-17.
A jumper by McKie gave Philadelphia its first lead at 27-26 with 8:09 left in the second quarter. Charlotte quickly regained the lead and rebuilt it to 42-33 on two free throws by Miller with 3:10 remaining. But the Sixers closed the half with an 8-2 burst and took charge in the third quarter.
"When we got down early and came back, it is kind of a testament to how deep of a team we are," Sixers reserve center Matt Geiger said. "We had guys coming in and we were able to show them different looks."
They held the Hornets to one basket over the first six minutes and bolted to a 58-51 lead with 6:04 to go on a beautiful move by Iverson. He chased down a loose ball, spun into the air, looked to pass and put in a soft banker.
"Once Allen got his shots down, we were ready to go with our offense," Lynch said. "Eddie Jones has been playing him tough lately. Allen is ready for the challenge in the playoffs."
Iverson's 3-pointer gave the Sixers their largest lead at 67-55 with 2:15 remaining and a thunderous double-pump dunk by Ratliff just before the horn kept the advantage at 75-66.
Coleman kept the Hornets close with 14 points in the period.