PHILADELPHIA – Allen Iverson scored 32 points and Andre Iguodala had 15 to lead the Philadelphia 76ers over the Atlanta Hawks 88-75 on Wednesday night.

Samuel Dalembert had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Webber grabbed 13 rebounds for the Sixers, who improved their mark on opening night to 39-19.

Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 25 points, and Zaza Pachulia and Josh Childress each had 15. Atlanta lost its eighth straight opener.

Maybe the Sixers didn’t have to change their roster to be a better team after all.

With nearly the entire roster back from a team that missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and had no significant additions, not much was expected this season from the Sixers.

And with the Eagles underachieving and the Flyers shaking up their personnel, there was little buzz for the Sixers opener, translating into plenty of empty seats, especially in the upper deck.

The Sixers led by as many as 23 late in the third quarter and were poised to turn this one into a blowout until the familiar problem of wasting large leads happened again.

In last season’s opener, the Sixers squandered a late double-digit lead in the final minutes and lost in overtime, setting the tone for a familiar pattern the rest of the year.

The Hawks chipped away and pulled to 81-71 late in the fourth on Childress’ jumper. The Sixers handed Atlanta more opportunities, on a shot clock violation, and missed shots by Iverson and Webber on the same possession, but the Hawks went cold down the stretch and didn’t convert either of those chances.

Not surprising. They are the Hawks.

Webber then hit a 17-footer and Dalembert dunked. The lead was back to 15 and the Sixers were back on their way.

Having an early cushion certainly helped the Sixers survive the late run.

Dalembert, with his afro now shaped into braids, hit a turnaround jumper to start a 15-0 run and help the Sixers dash to a 21-4 lead. Iverson hit a 3-pointer during the spurt and Iguodala converted a rare four-point play (a 3 and free throw) that energized the crowd.

The Hawks went on a couple of runs here and there, but Iverson hit a jumper from the left wing in the waning seconds to give the Sixers a 49-35 halftime lead.

After spending most of the summer on the trading block, Iverson was back for his 11th season in Philadelphia and didn’t look like he lost a step. Iverson scored 30-plus points in a game last season a whopping 49 times and might be able to top that this year now that veteran Kevin Ollie is starting with Iverson in the backcourt and assuming the true point guard role.

Iverson had a solid overall game, going 9-for-21 from the floor, 13-for-14 from the free throw line with six assists. Not a bad start for a player who wasn’t sure he’d back for another season wearing his familiar No. 3 in Philly.

Notes: A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who died Saturday at age 89. … Webber addressed the crowd before the game, asking the fans for their support and promising a “lot more good times than bad.” Webber and Iverson were sharply criticized last season for missing the home finale’s Fan Appreciation Night. .. Atlanta F Lorenzen Wright was suspended for the game for his role in a preseason fight.

AP-ES-11-01-06 2146EST



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