Sixers, Magic, Dallas seek 2-0 leads
PHILADELPHIA, April 23 (UPI) -- Allen Iverson tries to give Philadelphia a second straight win in its series with New Orleans after pouring in a franchise playoff-record 55 points Sunday.
Iverson made 21-of-32 shots in the series opener in one of the best performances in NBA playoff history as Philadelphia posted a 98-80 victory. He scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, single-handedly lifting the 76ers to the win.
New Orleans may be shorthanded Wednesday because of the continuing knee problems of star guard Baron Davis. He managed just 10 points and six assists, and his mobility was noticeably hampered in Game One.
Dirk Nowitzki scored a team playoff-record 46 points as the Dallas Mavericks rallied from a 13-point deficit for a 96-85 win over Portland on Saturday. Surprisingly, the Mavericks also did it with defense, limiting the Trail Blazers to 12 points on 4-of-21 shooting in the third quarter.
Portland, which has lost eight straight playoff games, could be without swingman Scottie Pippen, who is struggling with his surgically- repaired left knee. He managed just five points and five assists in the opener.
The top-seeded Detroit Pistons will try to do a better job of defending NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady when they try to even their Eastern Conference series with the Orlando Magic.
McGrady scored a team playoff-record 43 points in Orlando's 99-94 road win Sunday.
Richard Hamilton led Detroit with 28 points in his postseason debut, but the Pistons' highly-regarded bench contributed just 16 points, including a six-point effort by Sixth Man of the Year candidate Corliss Williamson.
All-Star Ben Wallace continues to be bothered by a knee injury that forced him to miss the final six regular-season games. Rookie forward Drew Gooden had the better of his matchup with Wallace, collecting 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Wallace again named top NBA defender
NEW YORK, April 23 (UPI) -- Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons Wednesday became the sixth player to be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.
The 6-9 forward averaged a league-leading 15.4 rebounds and was second in the NBA with 3.15 blocks to help the Pistons earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Wallace joins Sidney Moncrief (1983-1984), Dennis Rodman (1990-1991), Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1994), Dikembe Mutombo (1997-1998), and Alonzo Mourning (1999-2000) as the only back-to-back winners.
Wallace received 531 of a possible 585 points, including 100 of 117 first-place votes, from a panel of writers and broadcasters. Players received five points for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.
It has been a season of recognition for Wallace, who became the first undrafted player in history to be voted as a starter for the NBA All-Star Game. He led the NBA with 1,072 rebounds and 239 offensive rebounds, was second with 833 defensive rebounds, and third with 230 blocks.
The former Virginia Union star became the first player to record 20 or more rebounds in five straight games since Rodman in 1997-97 with the Chicago Bulls.
The Pistons held their opponents to a league-low 87.7 points per game.
Wallace, who was forced to miss the final six regular-season games with a sprained ankle, will be given the award before Wednesday's playoff game against Orlando. Hall of Famer and former Piston Bob Lanier will present the award.
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs (two) and Doug Christie of the Sacramento Kings (five) received the other first-place votes.
Marquette gives Crean contract extension
MILWAUKEE, April 23 (UPI) -- Marquette has signed men's basketball coach Tom Crean to a new multi-year contract, ending speculation that he would jump to fill the post at Illinois.
Crean owns an 83-41 mark over four seasons with Marquette, which he took to its first Final Four since 1977 this past season. The Golden Eagles went 27-6, and lost to Kansas in the national semifinals.
"I feel very comfortable and confident with the people I work with and for everyday," Crean said. "I feel like I have real great friendships and relationships with the people here. The ownership of this university has transformed. All I look at is the ownership of the program is growing and growing, the people are just getting behind it. It is a great feeling."
Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
"It is a long-term contract, it is more than generous," Crean said. "It is something that I could have never imagined. To work here in this community is a great, great feeling. We just agreed on it and we wanted to get something done. Marquette has a policy to not discuss the length. I'm very happy with it and they are too, so we'll go from there."
Crean, who was an assistant at Western Kentucky and Michigan State before coming to Marquette, did not comment on whether he was contacted by Illinois about the opening.
He was rumored to be the leading choice to take over at Illinois because of his success in recruiting the Chicago area with Marquette. The Fighting Illini will now turn to other candidates, which could include Ernie Kent of Oregon, Southern Illinois Coach Bruce Weber, and former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd.
Reports: Fordham to fire Bob Hill
NEW YORK, April 23 (UPI) -- Bob Hill apparently is out after four forgettable seasons as men's basketball coach at Fordham.
Both the New York Daily News and New York Times reported Wednesday that Fordham has decided to fire Hill. The Times added that the official announcement will be made on Thursday.
The Rams were a dismal 4-24 this season, the worst record in the school's 100-year history, and closed with a 16-game losing streak. Just two of the wins came on the court. The other two came when Fordham was awarded two victories on forfeit from St. Bonaventure.
Hill has six years remaining on a 10-year, $2.5 million contract signed when he was hired in 1999. The Daily News said it was unclear if Hill was being fired outright or if a buyout was being negotiated with the school.
The Rams were 14-15 in their first season under Hill, and slipped to 12-17 in 2000-01 and 8-20 in 2001-02.
Hill had greater success on the NBA level than he did at Fordham. He coached the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs, and had a 257-212 record. He led the Spurs to an NBA-best 62-20 record in 1994-95.
Robbie Laing hired at Campbell
BUIES CREEK, N.C., April 23 (UPI) -- Robbie Laing has been hired as the new men's basketball coach at Campbell University.
Laing, 45, who has coached in four of the nation's premier collegiate conferences over a 20-year career, takes over the Fighting Camel program after spending two seasons at Kansas State as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He has also served in a similar capacity at Southern Mississippi, Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia Southern.
"When you take 20 years of basketball, 17 of those primarily serving as an assistant coach, you wonder when the journey is going to take you to the point in time where you find that first Division I head coaching position," Laing said at a news conference. "The fact that mine is at Campbell University excites me because it's not just a great opportunity for me to run a basketball program, but the institution itself stands for what I believe in philosophically as well."
His coaching career has taken him to stops in the Big-12, Southeastern, ACC, Conference-USA, Sun Belt, and Atlantic Sun conferences on the Division I level.
"Robbie Laing is a Christian man with strong moral character who happens to be an excellent basketball coach and a proven recruiter of basketball talent," said Athletic Director Stan Williamson. "We are very pleased Robbie has accepted the task of leading our men's basketball program at Campbell. We look forward to great things happening for our men's basketball program under Robbie's leadership."
At Campbell, Laing plans to implement an up-tempo offensive scheme that is built upon strong rebounding and tough defense.
"Offensively, we would like to take the ball down the court and search for scoring opportunities as quickly as possible," Laing said. "I don't feel like you're going to have great success if every trip down the court, you have to score against a formed or set defense. We'll try to rebound the basketball, get it down the floor, and look for opportunities. If those opportunities aren't there, we'll try to look for the next best opportunity that presents itself. We're not just going to run-and-shoot for the sake of shooting, but we would like to force a little faster style of play."
Before spending the 1999-2000 season as an assistant coach at Southern Mississippi, Laing served the previous three years (1996-99) as head coach at Jones Junior College in Ellisville, Miss.
Prior to taking the head coaching position at Jones in 1996, Laing was an assistant coach under Cliff Ellis at Auburn.
Mets lose Burnitz, Cone
NEW YORK, April 23 (UPI) -- New York Mets outfielder Jeromy Burnitz will be sidelined for at least a month after getting hit by a pitch in Tuesday's loss to the Houston Astros.
It is a big setback for Burnitz, who is trying to rebound from the worst season of his career. He suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone when he was hit on the left wrist by a fastball thrown by Billy Wagner in the ninth inning.
The Mets said Burnitz would be sidelined 4-6, although they did not officially place him on the disabled list.
"For sure (it's frustrating)," Burnitz said. "I've been feeling comfortable since spring training. It's a heartbreaker."
Last season, Burnitz batted just .215 with a 19 homers and 54 RBI in his first year with the Mets. However, he had gotten off to a decent start this year, batting .279 with two homers and five RBI.
"It's part of the game," said Mets catcher Mike Piazza. "I really didn't think it was broken. Jeromy's been working really hard for us. He's been doing the job offensively and defensively. He's going to be missed."
Burnitz suffered a similar injury on his right hand in 1999 that caused him to miss just over a month.
"It's the same thing as in '99, but on my other hand," Burnitz said. "When you get hit, it's numb for a couple of minutes. You really don't know until you get an X-ray, but it's clear as day."
Earlier in the game, the Mets had gotten more bad news as veteran righthander David Cone left after just two innings with a sore left hip that could throw a roadblock into his comeback attempt.
"It's something I've battled the last few years of my career," said the 40-year-old Cone, who returned to the major leagues this season for the first time since 2001. "It's always something when I get loose. It was OK. Tonight, I felt fatigued, weak, and unstable."
Cone's two-inning stint was his shortest since pitching 1 2/3 innings on Aug. 24, 1999 against the Texas Rangers as a member of the New York Yankees.
"He battled, but he didn't have it and that was due to his hip," said Mets Manager Art Howe. "It was important to get him out of there before something really bad happened. He had to be (hurting) quite a bit because David is one tough cookie, but not under these conditions."
Rolls sidelined with thumb injury
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 23 (UPI) -- Outfielder Damian Rolls of Tampa Bay dislocated his right thumb in the second inning of the team's 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night.
He landed on his right hand, and the thumb bent sideways and dislocated at the last knuckle.
Rolls, who had been given every opportunity to secure playing time with the Devil Rays this season, will miss 3-4 weeks with the injury. He is expected to be placed on the disabled list Wednesday.
Rolls suffered the injury trying to catch a fly ball hit to right field by Josh Phelps that fell in for a ground-rule double. Although Rolls stayed in the game until the end of the inning, he was replaced by George Lombard in the third.
Rolls got up, realized the damage, and popped the thumb tip back into place. After the game, the thumb was placed in a splint. It was the same thumb Rolls hurt while sliding while in the minors last season, when he had surgery and missed 10 weeks.
"There's nothing you can do but battle through it," he said.
Rolls is batting .219 with no homers and two RBI. He is the third Rays player to get hurt in the last week, following first baseman Travis Lee and outfielder Ben Grieve.
Lee aggravated a sore muscle in his ribcage and went on the DL. Grieve had an infection near the base of his thumb, and could be back this weekend.
"It's a shame, it really is," said Tampa Bay Manager Lou Piniella. "We've gotten hit hard the last week. We're not deep enough to sustain that."