From Mr Penny CCW
The NBA scoring champion took his show into the playoffs Sunday and overcame a bad case of pregame jitters.
“You got anything bigger than butterflies?” Allen Iverson asked, searching for the words to describe his anxiety. “I might have had a buzzard in my stomach.”
Iverson scored 30 points Sunday in the first NBA playoff game of his career as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Orlando Magic 104-90 in the opener of their best-of-5, first-round series.
Iverson said he slept poorly and woke up hourly, beginning at 5:30 a.m., in anticipation of the team’s 9 a.m. breakfast. He’s always nervous before a game, but said realizing a lifelong dream of appearing in the playoffs made Sunday especially gut-wrenching.
“I heard he got 15 minutes of sleep last night. That was 15 more than I expected,” Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said, adding that the third-year pro’s debut didn’t surprise him.
“I think he handles situations like this pretty well,” the coach added. “The only thing that I worry about is when he takes an individual challenge too much. I think he realizes now that he can just play.”
Iverson, who said he actually got a lot more than 15 minutes of sleep, made 12 of 29 shots and finished with seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and six turnovers in 45 minutes.
When he wasn’t the answer for the 76ers, Matt Geiger was. The center scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and led an 11-0 run that Philadelphia used to pull away for good.
Geiger also had 10 rebounds, helping the 76ers compile a whopping 57-36 edge on the boards.
Iverson struggled after scoring 18 in the opening half, missing 10 of his first 13 shots in the second half. But he held his composure and provided the basket that gave Philadelphia the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter.
“I’m still excited,” said Iverson, who at 6-feet became the smallest player in league history to win a scoring title, averaging 26.8 points. “I feel like I could play another 48 minutes. The crowd was against us, but it was great just playing in that kind of atmosphere.”
Penny Hardaway led Orlando with 19 points, but only three came in the second half. Nick Anderson added 18 and rookie Michael Doleac had 11.
The Magic used four different defenders — Anderson, Hardaway, Darrell Armstrong and Matt Harpring — on Iverson, and none of them enjoyed much success.
When Orlando tried to double-team the scoring champion, Iverson did a good job of finding Geiger and other teammates. Magic coach Chuck Daly is not sure the Magic can do much different defensively against him in Game 2 Tuesday night.
“We’ve done about everything. And I think that regardless of what you do, he’s going to get 25 points … He’s really a genius with the basketball,” Daly said.
George Lynch had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers, who won two of three regular-season meetings against Orlando, which at 21-4 had the best home record in the Eastern Conference this year.
The Magic shot only 34 percent from the field in the first two quarters, yet trailed just 50-47 at the half because they outscored the 76ers 23-6 from the foul line while attempting 31 free throws to Philadelphia’s 13.
In three regular-season games against Orlando, Iverson averaged nearly 23 points a game. The Magic held him to 16 points in one game and 14 in another, although cold shooting probably was as much of a factor as Orlando’s defense.
The 76ers star set the tone early with 11 first-quarter points and two assists, including a lob to Larry Hughes that the Philadelphia rookie caught up to on the baseline for a highlight-reel dunk and a 31-22 lead.
The Magic stayed close by living on the foul line, particularly in the last 6:10of the second quarter when they trimmed four points off Philadelphia’s lead despite going scoreless from the field.
Anderson’s 3-pointer tied the game early in the third quarter, and the Magic went ahead briefly before the 76ers settled down to lead 70-69 going into the final period.
“They just outhustled us, plain and simple, in our own building,” said Hardaway, the Magic’s four-time All-Star guard. “They came in and were more aggressive on the backboards than we were, and it showed.”
Notes: Once one of the toughest places in the NBA to get a ticket, Orlando Arena was not filled for Sunday’s game. Attendance was announced as 15,267 — 1,981 shy of capacity. About 3,000 tickets were available 90 minutes before tipoff … Although the 76ers are in the playoffs for the first time since 1991, eight of the 15 players on the team had postseason experience before Sunday. Rick Mahorn, who’s in his 16th season, led the way with 101 games. The other seven — Tyrone Hill, Eric Snow, Harvey Grant, Aaron McKie, George Lynch, Matt Geiger and Theo Ratliff — had a combined 94 games of playoff experience … Iverson won the scoring title despite shooting just .412 from the field — the lowest mark by a scoring champion since George Mikan shot 40.7 percent in 1949-50.