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Iguodala caps off late rally as Sixers shock Magic in Game 1

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The Canadian Press
4/19/2009 11:24:41 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Andre Iguodala waited for the clock to tick down, took a few dribbles to his right and let go a high-arching jumper.

Swish!

The Magic were stunned, their fans silenced.

For the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the sweet sound of stealing home-court advantage.

Iguodala made a 22-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining, and the Sixers rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Orlando 100-98 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series Sunday.

He then stood at halfcourt waving his hands as teammates joined him to celebrate.

"We won one more game than people thought we would win," Iguodala said. "I was pretty amped up."

Iguodala had 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Louis Williams scored 18 to help the Sixers beat the Magic for the first time in four tries this season -- and when it mattered most.

Hedo Turkoglu's fadeaway three-pointer missed at the buzzer, and Magic fans stood in disbelief before filing out quietly.

Iguodala had missed two free throws with about a minute left before more than redeeming himself with the game-winning shot.

"He really made up for it, didn't he?" Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said, smiling. "He's like our secret weapon."

Dwight Howard had a career playoff-high 31 points and 16 rebounds, and rookie Courtney Lee scored 18 for the Magic.

It was the biggest lead the Magic blew all season, topping the loss on Oct. 31 to Memphis when they were ahead by 15 points. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Orlando.

"I was very surprised at the effort," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I was surprised not only for our lack of intensity defensively, but I was really surprised with our lack of focus."

The Sixers came into the playoffs losing six of their last seven games but were able to put that skid in the past the same way they did last year, when they won Game 1 at Detroit.

The Pistons eventually took the series in six games.

Orlando's inside-out game seemed as if it would too much for Philadelphia.

Lee's shooting and Howard's muscle highlighted a 15-3 run in the third quarter that built an 18-point lead. With Howard banging on the inside, the Sixers were forced to throw double-teams at him, allowing the Magic's perimeter players to break free.

When they did, Howard again took charge.

Rim-rocking dunks, smooth hook shots and even some uncharacteristic crisp free throws by the Magic's centre capped the spurt.

The only time Philadelphia actually slowed Howard was when Samuel Dalembert inadvertently scratched both his eyes and was called for a foul. Howard said his eyes were pulsating after the game but shouldn't be a problem.

"I got backslapped," Howard said.

Maybe that was all Philadelphia needed.

Howard made the pair of free throws to put Orlando ahead 79-61 and then went to the locker room with a towel to his face. He returned to the game after a few minutes.

The Sixers rolled off eight straight points in the fourth and eventually tied the game at 91 with fewer than four minutes left on a layup by Andre Miller.

After Howard's dunk over Theo Ratliff put the Magic ahead 98-95 with 49.1 seconds remaining, Donyell Marshall answered with a 3-pointer -- and 11 points in the four -- for Philadelphia and Iguodala did the rest.

"You've got to understand, when I come into the game we're usually down 15 points," Marshall joked. "So my job is just to come in and shoot."

Starting Magic forwards Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu looked rusty in their first games in more than a week after being sidelined with injuries, part of the reason Orlando was pushed back to the Eastern Conference's No. 3 spot.

Lewis said the injury didn't slow him and what hurt after the game was the loss, not the tendinitis in his right knee.

"It's a loss on your home court and now home-court advantage is toward them," Lewis said. "But this is the playoffs. It's not the NCAA tournament. One game is not going to eliminate you."

The Magic could never make up the difference.

The sixth-seeded Sixers were able to withstand an early Magic run and a strong start from Howard, who finished 9-for-11 from the floor. Thaddeus Young had consecutive three-point plays to help Philadelphia rebound from five down to eventually take a 27-21 lead in the first quarter.

Any momentum the Sixers built evaporated on the final play of the period.

In a rare display of speed and power, 34-year-old Magic backup guard Anthony Johnson took it end-to-end and dunked over Ratliff.

The throttling one-hand slam in the waning seconds of the quarter had the Magic's bench so exhilarated that Van Gundy had to shove a few of his own players back who had made their way onto the court in celebration.

It was premature.

The Sixers hung tough and bumped back, with Iguodala going for a pair of reverse dunks in a back-and-forth second quarter. Philadelphia had an answer for everything Orlando threw its way. Everything, that is, except Howard.

"This is a game that we should have won," Howard said. "But there's no need to panic. We just have to come our with a better effort."

Notes: Howard's previous playoff high was 29 points against the Raptors in the first round last year. It was Howard's 15th career playoff game. ... Central Florida resident and the Magic's most famous fan, Tiger Woods, was sitting at his courtside seat across from Philadelphia's bench. ... Lewis had missed the last three games with right knee tendinitis. Turkoglu had been sidelined for the last two games with a sprained left ankle.

Andre Iguodala (Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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(1) SA 1, (8) DAL 1 (4) HOU 0, (5) POR 2
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