Allen Iverson has heard a lot of negative comments during his tempestuous career.
He wasn't used to hearing them about his toughness, though.
Iverson returned Sunday after missing 16 games with a back injury and scored eight points in 21 minutes of the Detroit Pistons' 101-97 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. After the game, he acknowledged being hurt by media reports that he might not play again this season.
"The one thing that everyone has always known about me is that I'm a warrior -- the doctors would say I'd be out two-four weeks, and I'd come back in a week," he said. "So now I have an injury I've never had before -- one that was bothering me -- and people are suddenly questioning my courage. That was hard, but I know positive stories don't sell.
"If you can come up with a negative story about Allen Iverson, it will sell, so that's what people rolled with."
Iverson said it was also an adjustment to come off the bench, something he has only done a handful of times in his career.
"With all the things I've done in my career, I knew it was going to be tough for me mentally to do this," he said. "But the more I looked at the big picture -- the idea of helping my teammates win games -- the more the idea appealed to me."
Tayshaun Prince scored 21 points and Rodney Stuckey added 16 points as Detroit pulled within 1 1/2 games of Philadelphia for sixth place in the conference.
"This was a big win for us to get, especially playing a tough team on a back-to-back," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. "It didn't help that they are one of the fastest teams out there -- if you turn the ball over, they will be gone."
Andre Iguodala had 27 points and Thaddeus Young added 22 for the 76ers, but Samuel Dalembert left in the first quarter with a leg injury and didn't return.
"Losing Sam hurt our rebounding, because he's the best rebounder on the team, and we missed the shot blocking," Philadelphia coach Tony Dileo said. "We tried to be aggressive, but for whatever reason we just couldn't get free throws."
The lead changed 19 times in the first three quarters, but the 76ers began to take charge late in the third, using an 8-1 run to take a 83-79 lead.
Two quick baskets by Iguodala made it 89-83 with 9:55 left, but Detroit brought in Amir Johnson for defense and used a 10-0 run for the game's 20th lead change.
"Amir was huge," Curry said. "He was getting us rebounds above the rim, where there had been a lot of loose balls that they were picking up and putting back in."
The Pistons built the margin to as many as six, but Philadelphia pulled to 99-97 on Iguodala's layup with 35 seconds left.
Hamilton, though, hit a baseline jumper with 14 seconds left and the Pistons held on. The Sixers argued that Hamilton had stepped out of bounds, but replays were inconclusive.
"We played hard and whatever happened, happened," Iguodala said. "We thought we had the game, and then things changed and they got back into it."