Never again let it be said the 76ers can't win when Allen Iverson scores 40 or more points.
Iverson put on a dominant offensive display Friday night, attempting a career-high 36 shots, scoring 41 points and putting some distance between himself and Shaquille O'Neal in the scoring race as the 76ers trounced the Lakers 105-90.
"Monkey off my back!" Iverson shouted in the locker room, well aware Philadelphia had been 0-7 when he eclipsed the 40-point mark.
Iverson embarrassed everyone the Lakers used as a defender - especially Kobe Bryant -- in front of the 76ers' first sellout crowd of the season. He shot 17-for-36 from the field and 4-for-6 from the line, handed off 10 assists and grabbed five rebounds while finding his shot within the rhythm of the offense and surviving three hard collisions with O'Neal and one with Travis Knight.
"He can't guard me out on the perimeter, there's no way," Iverson said of Bryant. "Kobe is 6-foot-5, 6-6, and I'm 6 feet tall. So I got the mismatch -- especially if I hit a jumper and he has to get up close on me. He was grabbing me, holding me and getting away with it, but it all paid off."
O'Neal scored 23 for Los Angeles and Bryant also had 23 when he wasn't being made to look foolish by trying to keep up with the speedy Iverson.
About the only time Bryant contained Iverson came as the clock ticked inside the final minute. After failinto shake Bryant with a pick or fancy footwork, Iverson found Eric Snow open for a jumper, giving him his 10th assist and putting the Sixers ahead 102-90.
"I just wasn't prepared to guard pick-and-roll situations," Bryant said. "That's it. I take the blame. It won't happen again. I really wasn't prepared for that. I was in a foreign land."
"I don't really look at this as a me and Allen matchup," Bryant said. "Three years down the line, four years down the line, if we keep going head-to-head, then that will be the equivalent of having a duel-type matchup. Right now, it's just a preview."
Iverson increased his league-leading average from 28.6 to 29.2, while O'Neal's dropped from 27.2 to 27.0.
George Lynch added 13 points, Theo Ratliff had 12, Tyrone Hill had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Snow had 10 points, six steals and five assists.
The 76ers outrebounded the Lakers, who were without Dennis Rodman for the fourth straight game, 46-34.
"They're a good team, for the West Coast," Iverson said. "I think they need Rodman. I could see a lot of chaos out there within their team. I didn't really know before, but playing against them you can find out some things by listening and seeing what's going on."
O'Neal grabbed only four rebounds before fouling out with 1:25 left.
"He's an obvious factor," O'Neal said of Rodman. "But he had personal problems, whatever that means. Nobody really knows."
After taking 21 shots in the first half and making nine, Iverson showed no signs of slowing down in the third quarter.
Shot No. 25 was a corner jumper that gave Philadelphia a 62-58 lead, shot No. 26 was a 3-pointer that upped the lead to seven, shot No. 28 was a jumper after Iverson lost Bryant with a tricky behind-the-back dribble out near the 3-point line, and shot No. 30 came with 1.8 seconds left in the quarter, a floater over 7-footer Sean Rooks that gave Iverson 31 points and put Philadelphia ahead 76-67.
Iverson tied his career-high of 32 shots with 10:17 left in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer that gave the 76ers an 83-72 lead, and Los Angeles never made a final run.
Iverson reached 40 points with 3:38 left, breaking free of Bryant's grip on his jersey and hitting a jumper that made it 94-82.
"The little kid was phenomenal," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "At one point I had to take him out he was so wired. He took a lot of shots, but he had good selection on most of them."
- Iverson's 36 shots were the most by anyone in the NBA this season. Iverson held the mark of 3against Sacramento on Feb. 24.
- There was no news on the Rodman front, leaving his teammates wondering whether he'll rejoin the team Sunday in Orlando, Monday in Dallas or back at home Wednesday against Phoenix. The team is 9-0 with him, 1-3 since he left to tend to undisclosed "personal issues."
- Derek Harper, the Lakers' starting point guard, did not score and shot 0-for-6 from the field.
- The Sixers were 22-for-37 from the foul line.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed