When Allen Iverson shoots from long range, it usually brings a sigh of relief from opponents. Anyone would take a chance defending Iverson from beyond the arc, rather than having to match his quickness heading to the hoop.
Even at age 30, Iverson knows his fleet forays to the basket are still the best way to ignite an offense. After an 18-day absence from the Wachovia Center, Iverson sparked a successful return by scoring 41 points Monday night as the 76ers defeated the Seattle SuperSonics, 107-98.
Iverson shot 15 for 25 from the field and did not attempt a single three-pointer for the first time this season. He was also 11 for 13 from the foul line, the byproduct of so many drives to the basket.
It marked the eighth time this season that Iverson had scored 40 or more points, the first since he dropped 53 in a 111-108 loss to Atlanta on December 23 that began a string of seven consecutive road games.
"I try to get to the basket," Iverson said. "I never want to shoot a bunch of jumpers."
And for good reason.
"Our percentage is much higher going to the basket," Iverson added. "I always try to make a conscious effort going to the basket, but a lot of teams don't let me do that."
The Sonics aren't one of those teams. They entered the game allowing an NBA-worst 105.2 points per game.
The Sixers, coming off a 2-5 road trip, are now 17-17 after playing their first game at the Wachovia Center since December 21. With seven of the next nine games at home, this may be time to make some headway. The Sixers are 11-5 at the Wachovia Center and 8-0 at home against Western Conference teams.
"Obviously, we didn't do what we wanted to on the road," Iverson said. "So we got an opportunity to turn things around at home."
On December 27, he injured his ankle against Denver, but as Monday night showed, Iverson is rounding back into physical form.
"I am able to push off it like I wanted to," Iverson said. "Early in the game it's kind of hard because it still stiffens up, but once it gets loose, I can move around like I want to."
The Sixers played their second game in the last three without Chris Webber, who is day-to-day with a lower back strain. John Salmons started in his place and scored 18 points, also taking some of the ballhandling load from Iverson.
"He had the advantage of going to the rim, which was a plus for us," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said of Salmons.
All five Sixers starters scored in double figures. Kyle Korver scored 17, Iguodala 16 and Samuel Dalembert 11, all in the second half. The Sixers are 6-0 when all five starters score in double figures.
The Sixers also played credible perimeter defense against the mad bombers from Seattle. The Sonics shot 8 for 24 from beyond the arc Monday night. Ray Allen led Seattle with 27 points.
"Just being back home in our own atmosphere felt good," Iverson said. "The road trip was long. For me personally, it kind of drained me, being so long."
In turn, he had a draining effect on Seattle in his homecoming.