PHILADELPHIA To say Milt Palacio owns Allen Iverson would be a stretch. To say Palacio has had some success against the Philadelphia 76ers star this season oh, that's fair.
The first time Utah and Philadelphia met this season, Iverson tried driving on Palacio with the game still on the line. But Palacio stayed in front of him and got a full hand on the ball as he tried to shoot, helping the Jazz to a six-point win.
On Wednesday, the Jazz won 108-102. Iverson scored 46. Yet Palacio was the one on the receiving end of more plaudits for his final-quarter play, both on the defensive end (helping hold Iverson to 10 in the fourth) and on the offensive end (he scored 11 of his 17 points over the final 12 minutes).
"Milt played strong with the ball," teammate Gordan Giricek said.
"He was terrific down the stretch," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added with regard to Palacio, who has closed Utah's last three games all wins with much success. "He made his free throws, he took the ball to the basket and he just played extremely well. He seems to be very confident playing in that position."
Still, Palacio chewed some humble pie when questioned about his play against Iverson. Asked if he'd like to see him every night, the veteran journeyman shook his head."Heck no," he said. "I'm glad we're done with him. He's tough, man. Tough. Tough dude. You've got to guard him with five people, and that's the big thing I was saying in the huddle."
MORE AI: In a sports-front feature story in Wednesday's USA Today, the now 30-year-old Iverson discussed how his game has matured and invoked the name of a retired Jazz great in doing so.
"It's just learning the game more," he told the newspaper. "Just trying to approach it in a John Stockton-type of way, to where you don't play so much with your physical ability all the time. You have to think the game out a lot more. That's where I'm a lot better. I know the game more. I see things before they happen."
Wednesday, after his 46 points came in a loss, Iverson took another Stockton-esque approach.
"It's frustrating to lose a game," he said. "I don't care if I play well or play bad. It's losing the game. That's the worst part of it all. It doesn't do any good if we play well and lose basketball games. You still got a loss. It's like you didn't even go out there and do anything."Iverson's 46, by the way, marked his ninth 40-point game of the season, second in as many games and 68th of his career. It also moved him past Chris Mullin and into 53rd on the NBA's all-time scoring list, 23 shy of 52nd-place Lou Hudson.
BLOCKHEADS: Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko went into the game as the NBA's second-leading shot blocker with an average of 3.16 swats per game, but after a head-to-head meeting with the league-leader he came out on top.Kirilenko finished with four blocks, pushing his average to 3.19. Philadelphia's Samuel Dalembert, who came in averaging 3.24, had two, leaving him at 3.18.
MISC.: Philadelphia's loss was the first at home this season to a Western Conference opponent for the 76ers, now 8-1 at Wachovia Center vs. West teams . . . Healthy Jazz rookie guard Andre Owens was inactive for a fifth straight game . . . Utah used the same starting lineup for a seventh straight time . . . Mehmet Okur's 25 points were a Jazz high, but he failed to record a double-double for just the fifth time in the last 16 games.. . . Wednesday's game is the season's last carried by Fox Sports Net Utah but not delivered to Comcast cable subscribers; the rest should be available to all cable or dish subscribers, either on Fox Sports Net, KJZZ or TNT.
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