Blazers Have Sixers' Number

A chicken sticks its head out of a cage at a slaughter house in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, March 10, 2006. Two Indonesian children died of bird flu, bringing the country's toll to 22, officials said, citing test results from World Health Organization-approved laboratories.
AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

The Philadelphia 76ers erased a 17-point deficit without much problem. The 3-point deficit provided by Steve Smith proved insurmountable.

Smith hit a 3-pointer and Damon Stoudamire added a scoop shot in the final 63 seconds Friday night as the Portland Trail Blazers improved on the NBA's best record with a 97-91 victory over Philadelphia.

The Blazers, off to their best start since 1990-91, displayed two of the most important traits of a championship contender. They built a big lead with unselfishness and surprising fluidity for a team that's been together only 10 games. Then they thwarted Philadelphia's comeback with playoff-like poise.

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  • "They share the ball, they share time. They're a real team," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "I think they've got a focus like they're going to sacrifice anything to win a championship."

    Allen Iverson received his NBA scoring championship plaque before the game, then spent the rest of the night yelling at the referees. He stopped that for a moment to hit a jumper that tied it at 87-all with 1:32 left.

    Smith, who sat out much of the fourth quarter, made an open 3-pointer to make it 90-87 with 1:03 left. Iverson airballed a driving jumper, and Stoudamire tossed in a nifty underhanded shot to lift the Blazers (9-1) to their fifth straight victory.

    "I don't (care) about a moral victory," said Iverson, who drew a technical foul and barked at the refs on nearly every trip down the floor. "That's a game we're supposed to win."

    Iverson might be underestimating the Blazers, who got their third straight road victory and are off to their best start since the 1990-91 team that won 63 games and lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

    All five starter scored in double figures for the poised, precise Blazers, led by Rasheed Wallace's 21 points. Smith scored 19, Arvydas Sabonis had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Scottie Pippen had 15 points and nine assists.

    "We use a lot of guys, and we have confidence in all of them," Dunleavy said.

    Smith said, "That's the beauty of our team. It doesn't matter who scores."

    Iverson had his second straight shaky game, scoring 26 points on 8-for-22 shooting. The Sixers lost their second straight in a tough stretch that includes a home game Monday against San Antonio.

    Unlike Dunleavy, Brown is having trouble finding minutes for his players. Iverson's mood seemed to sour after he sat out for 4:41 in the first half, a long stretch for him.

    "You've got one guy who plays 40-something minutes a game and he gets mad every time you take him out," Brown said, an obvious reference to Iverson. "How are we going to do this?"

    The Blazers appeared ready to break the game open with an 8-2 run including consecutive fastbreak dunks by Pippen and Wallace that made it 72-57 with 2:33 left in the third. But Philadelphia recovered with nine points in the final 39 seconds of the period two 3-pointers by Billy Owens and one by Iverson with eight-tenths of a second left to cut it to 76-68.

    After the Sixers cut it to 78-72 early in the fourth, Iverson was called for his fourth foul after getting tangled up with Greg Anthony. Iverson lay on the court during a timeout, but returned.

    Larry Hughes hit a jumper, and George Lynch converted an offensive rebound to cut it to 80-76 with 8:38 left.


  • The Blazers led 53-41 at halftime, and it would have been much worse if they hadn't missed 11 of 20 free throws. They were 21-for-35 in the game.
  • Iverson was 8-for-27 for 24 points Wednesday night in a 98-93 loss to Miami that followed five straight 30-point games.
  • Sixers president Pat Croce will have the next set of X-rays Monday on his left leg, which was reconstructed following a motorcycle accident. Doctors believe a bone is growing too quickly and getting in the way of the bones that are trying to regenerate. If X-rays confirm that, Croce will have his fifth operation Tuesday in which a surgeon will have to break the fibula and reset it.

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