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Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Iverson passes up chance to be hero

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson scored 11, but it wasn't enough for the Sixers to end their 11-game losing streak.

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson wanted to take the final shot. Really, he did.

The Sixers trailed by two with the final seconds ticking away, the ball was in his hands, he was isolated against his defender at the top of the key, and he made his move -- driving to his right and heading into the lane.

Then, Iverson's eyes and brain took over.

Standing off to his right, all lined up behind the 3-point line was Andre Iguodala, and there wasn't a Piston within shouting distance of him after Iguodala came off a double-screen and his defender slipped and fell.

So rather than shoot, Iverson passed.

And the other A.I.?

He missed.

"I wanted the shot, but I don't think I could have gotten a better shot than the shot we had. That was the best shot that we could get. Guy falls down and Dre gets a 3 for the game? Gotta take that shot regardless of who it is," Iverson said. "But inside of me, yeah, I wanted to take that shot. But Dre had a better shot."

Let the record show that more than a few folks in the sparse crowd of 12,136 booed after Iverson threw that pass, but booing is something Philadelphians do better than anybody, and you can't really blame them for wanting to see something resembling a storybook ending to Iverson's second game in his return to the 76ers, a 90-86 loss to the Detroit Pistons that extended Philadelphia's losing streak to 11. "That was what we drew up," coach Eddie Jordan said of the situation in a timeout with 8.7 seconds left after Rodney Stuckey picked up a loose ball (outquicking Iverson to get to it) after having his shot blocked by Iguodala and put it back in, giving the Pistons an 88-86 lead. "Allen coming off a double-screen with the option to go one-on-one. We had Andre coming off another double screen, and if Andre is open, Allen is there for a flare [pass]. Andre was open, he laced it up, got his feet set. He had plenty of time to get it off."

Iguodala had no explanation other than he had simply missed, but it was clear that he took this loss harder than Iverson did -- a natural reaction to Iguodala's having been here for the duration of this 11-game losing streak, as well as all seven of the games the Sixers have dropped this season by five or fewer points.

For Iverson, the two losses he has absorbed in his short time in Philly have been more than mitigated by the good vibes and the relative euphoria that his return has produced. To him, the reality that it has been three full weeks since the Sixers won a game just doesn't seem to have fully sunk in.

Which is why his mood meter was probably about 10 times more positive than Iguodala's afterward.

"I know that's eating at Dre because he could make that shot a million out of a million times, just to have that great look like that, wide open, I know it's eating at him, but he'll have that opportunity again," Iverson said.

This was yet another alumni game for Iverson after he faced one of his three former teams, Denver, in his Sixers re-debut Monday night. But Iverson's time in Detroit basically amounted to half of a season -- and a dysfunctional half-season at that, the coach he played for (and accused of being a liar), Michael Curry, has long since been fired, and several of the players he was teammates with in Motown were not in attendance (Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton were injured, and Rasheed Wallace left as a free agent).

Asked at Wednesday morning's shootaround what he considered his defining moment in his time in Detroit, Iverson paused to consider the question, thought about it a little more -- and drew a blank.

"I don't think I had any."

But he acknowledged he'd be lying if he said Wednesday's game didn't mean a little extra to him, and afterward he said he was generally satisfied with his performance despite missing two wide-open layups, turning the ball over six times and scoring just 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Jordan played Iverson and Iguodala for the entire first quarter and didn't sub out Iverson until 7:41 remained in the second quarter.

Iguodala, who ended up logging nearly 46 1/2 minutes, didn't come out for the first time until 6:03 remained in the first half, and he played all 24 minutes of the second half.

Iverson played the first 11:15 of the third quarter, then did not return until 3:16 remained in the fourth, and he was clearly fresher on his feet as he knocked down a 19-foot tying jumper with 1:05 remaining after his defender, Chucky Atkins, slipped and fell while chasing him.

The 76ers then forced a 24-second violation only to have Iguodala miss a drive and Samuel Dalembert fail to convert a tip-in, setting the stage for Stuckey's loose-ball recovery that ended up being the biggest shot of the game.

The biggest one, that is, that went in.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.