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Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009


Butorac leads Albirex to win over Apache

Staff writer

YAMATO, Kanagawa Pref. — The tallest player had the biggest impact on the game's outcome.

Center Paul Butorac had a game-high 32 points in the Niigata Albirex BB's 102-82 win over the Tokyo Apache on Monday night at Yamato Sports Center.

The 208-cm Butorac was 13-for-15 from the field and also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

Tyrone Levett added 21 points, Akitomo Takeno had 17 and Antonio Burks 15 for Niigata, which led by double digits throughout the fourth quarter. Julius Ashby paced the Apache with 23 points, Rasheed Sparks scored 18 and Nick Davis 12.

Both teams last played a bj-league game on Nov. 15, but the Albirex were the stronger, more assertive team for most of the game.

Tokyo jumped out to a 15-5 lead to start the contest, getting good ball movement and taking quality shots.

Niigata (3-8) answered with a 10-0 run to tie it and the score was knotted at 19-19 after one quarter.

The Albirex pulled away in the second quarter, using a 14-1 spurt to pull ahead 42-27 late in the period.

Niigata controlled the boards in the opening half (30-19 rebounding edge), which led to numerous second-chance scoring opportunities. Butorac had five of the Albirex's 14 offensive boards before the break.

Niigata maintained its steady offensive rhythm in the third quarter, twice pulling ahead by 20 points in the period. Butorac was 4-for-5 from the field in the quarter, a statistical snapshot of his outstanding outing, while Takeno handed out four assists in the third.

Overall, Tokyo made too many mistakes (18 turnovers). Niigata had eight. And now the team prepare for Tuesday's rematch.

Iverson fired up

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Welcome back, A.I.

Your spot in the Philadelphia 76ers starting lineup was kept warm for three years and is waiting for you Monday night. The fans who loved you as a hustling, hard-charging MVP even as you clashed with coaches will pack every seat in the arena, waiting in their No. 3 jerseys to hear, "At guard, from Georgetown University . . . "

And the team you left mired in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, well, they're still stuck there.

Allen Iverson's second act with the 76ers begins much how the first one ended.

"It was like deja vu," 76ers center Samuel Dalembert said of watching him practice Sunday.

Iverson joined the first team of Dalembert, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Willie Green on Sunday in his first practice with Philadelphia since 2006. Iverson acknowledged he's not yet in game shape after sitting out for nearly a month, and needs more time to adjust to the offense and his new teammates.

"I think it's important for my coaching staff, my teammates and my fans to be a little patient with me," Iverson said.

Coach Eddie Jordan said he "anticipated" Iverson would start against the Nuggets, one of three teams he played for after leaving Philadelphia.

"He made a difference already in practice," Jordan said. "His talking, his presence, being a step ahead of the play defensively."

The 76ers need a healthy Iverson. Guard Lou Williams (jaw) is out, leading scorer Andre Iguodala (ankle) did not practice Sunday and is a game-time decision, and guard Jrue Holiday missed Saturday's game with a strained rotator cuff.

All the injuries — and an underachieving lineup — have the Sixers ahead of only lowly New Jersey in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sixers are 5-15 and have lost nine straight entering Monday. When the Sixers traded Iverson on Dec. 19, 2006, they were 5-18 and on an 11-game losing streak.

Iverson's return has given the slumping Sixers a jolt in ticket sales.

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