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Allen Iverson, 'the guy who drives our league,' bails on playing for Philly fans in BIG3 game

Allen Iverson, 'the guy who drives our league,' bails on playing for Philly fans in BIG3 game

Allen Iverson’s return to the Wells Fargo Center with the BIG3 league didn’t go as planned. The 3’s Company player coach/captain was only on the sidelines coaching after he announced he would not be suiting up around half-an-hour before the games began. 

“To all my fans out there, based on advice from my doctor I will not be playing in the game tonight for the BIG3,” Iverson said on Instagram. “I will be there to coach my team and beat Dr. J’s team. I will be interacting with all my fans and we will have a great time. You will see some great basketball. I love you fans for supporting me all of the years up to date and I’ll see you when I get there.” 

The exact cause of Iverson not playing was not specified. Neither he nor BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube spoke to the media after the game. 

Iverson was the main draw to the game in Philadelphia. He received a loud standing ovation from the Iverson jersey-clad crowd when he was introduced in his matchup against Tri-State, coached by fellow Hall of Famer Julius Erving. The arena turned into a sea of phones as fans held theirs up to capture Iverson’s message when he addressed them before tipoff. 

“I’m glad I had a chance to come back home to Philadelphia,” Iverson said prior to the game, wearing a T-shirt with 'The Answer' and the No. 3 across the back. “I always tell people that some athletes have relationships with their fans. Michael Jordan with the fans in Chicago. LeBron (James) with the fans in Cleveland. Kobe (Bryant) with the fans in L.A. Ain’t nothing like this relationship that we have. It don’t get no better than this. 

“I thank ya’ll and I love ya’ll for supporting me throughout my career and still today ya’ll continue to support me. I’m always going to be Philly and Philly’s always going to be in my heart.” 

Iverson’s opponents found out he wasn’t playing the same time as the fans. While the players from Tri-State were happy with their victory over 3’s Company, Bonzi Wells looked at the situation from the crowd’s perspective. 

“Allen is the guy who drives our league,” Wells said. “He’s one of the biggest names in our league. We were hoping that he was going to play for the fans. And this is what it’s all about, it’s about the fans. It was tough, but we got the win so it’s good for us.”

It remains to be seen if Iverson will play next weekend in Chicago. Whether or not he is on the court, his impact is felt throughout the BIG3 league. 

“Bubba Chuck my childhood idol,” Trilogy’s Rashad McCants, the No. 1 pick in the BIG3 draft, said. “Growing up, a lot of my game comes from influence — the style, the tattoo, the headband. To have a guy like that be a part of this is the reason why I signed up.”

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

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Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Blazers top Pacers for 5th straight home win
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 26 points and eight assists, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86 on Thursday night.

C.J. McCollum added 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for Portland, which seems to have its homecourt mojo back, winning five straight after dropping six consecutive home games in early December. The Blazers also beat Indiana for the ninth consecutive time on their home floor.

Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison scored 23 points each for Indiana.

Portland took control late in the third quarter, when the Blazers held Indiana scoreless for more than five minutes. It was part of Portland's 21-2 run, during which Napier scored eight points to help erase a six-point deficit and give the Blazers an 89-76 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Indiana was without forward Myles Turner, the team's second-leading scorer this season. Turner has missed five consecutive games with a right elbow injury (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”