Ariza Scores 40, Wizards Win 6th Straight
PHILADELPHIA — The 76ers’ fans came to celebrate Allen Iverson’s No. 3.
Trevor Ariza left them talkin’ about 40.
Ariza made eight 3-pointers and scored a career-high 40 points to help the Washington Wizards win their sixth straight game, 122-103 over Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Ariza made all six 3-point attempts in the first quarter for 24 points and finished 14 of 23 from the floor overall.
The 76ers lost their 13th straight game on the night they retired Iverson’s No. 3. Iverson had his number sent to the rafters, fit between Maurice Cheeks’ No. 10 and Charles Barkley’s No. 34. The Sixers even gave him a boat named, “The Answer.”
The Sixers enjoyed their first sellout of 20,856 for Iverson’s triumphant homecoming. The fans, though, saw the same old sorry Sixers.
Ariza had his milestone game in front of one of his childhood favorites.
“What he brought to the game made me love the game the way I love it,” he said. “He was amazing for a lot of years and he definitely changed the culture of the NBA. This was his night and, I guess, that’s definitely a thanks for all the things he’s done throughout my life and my career.
“Just being a fan of his since I was young, it’s great to be able to perform that way on a big night like that for him.”
Ariza had plenty of help for a Wizards team making a run in the Eastern Conference. John Wall had 17 points and tied a career high with 16 assists, and Marcin Gortat had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Ariza, averaging 14.3 points, seemed like he would top his career high of 33 in the first 12 minutes. The Sixers were helpless as the 6-foot-8 forward made his 3-point shots with the ease of a pop-a-shot contest. With the building buzzing over Iverson’s retirement ceremony, Ariza silenced them at stretches with six 3s and 9 of 10 shooting overall, helping the Wizards storm out to a 15-point lead.
Wall had the assist on most of those looks and finished the quarter with eight.
“What more can you ask than a guy who wants to see you succeed,” Ariza said. “I feel like that’s what we do here now; we all want to see each other succeed.”
The fans were mostly distracted by the parade of former greats the Sixers trotted out for Iverson’s big night. They went wild for Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and former team president Pat Croce.
But they came for the global superstar who popularized “talkin’ about practice.”
The Sixers may as well have turned the arena into an AI museum. Four banners greeted fans at the main concourse entrance, and photos of him were plastered all around the arena. The merchandise stands sold Iverson jerseys for $130, and lower level tickets were going for as much for $1,280 on Stubhub about an hour before the 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
The fans loved him, and he blew them kisses after the No. 3 was raised to show how much he loved them back.
“I am Philly,” Iverson said. “It’s always going to be that way.”
Wall, who had his 22nd double-double, returned to the court at halftime to record Iverson’s ceremony.
“He was my role model and I looked up to him,” he said. “Being a small guard, that’s where I took a lot of my game from. This city embraced him and let him be who he was as a person. He always gave his best effort.
“I always wanted to grow braids like Iverson. The only thing I didn’t have was the tattoos.”
Iverson’s return injected a rare dose of excitement into a franchise playing some of the worst basketball in the league. The Sixers, in full-blown rebuilding mode, lost their 12th straight home game.
The Wizards made some history as well, scoring a Wells Fargo Center record 74 points in the first half and led by 12.
Perhaps fueled by Iverson’s ceremony, the Sixers went on a 9-0 run in the third to trim the gap to 12 points. It just wasn’t enough and the Sixers allowed 100-plus points for the 13th straight game.
Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 19 points and Thaddeus Young had 17.
Coach Brett Brown didn’t hesitate when asked if he wondered if the Sixers would win another game.
“All the time,” he said.
Notes: Ariza’s previous career best was at Houston on Oct. 31, 2009. … Trevor Booker had 14 points and Bradley Beal 11, giving the Wizards five starters in double figures. … Ariza also had four steals. … Phillies OF Marlon Byrd wore Iverson’s No. 3 during spring training batting practice.
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