PHILADELPHIA—Larry Brown doesn't know what will go wrong next. The way this season is going for the Philadelphia 76ers, it doesn't matter.
Before arriving at the First Union Center on Wednesday, Brown found out the Sixers would have to face Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers without center Matt Geiger, who was suspended two games for violating the NBA's steroid policy.
The Sixers already were missing All-Star center Theo Ratliff, out with a broken wrist.
But Allen Iverson along with some help from little-used center Nazr Mohammed made sure neither O'Neal nor Kobe Bryant were factors.
Iverson scored 40 points, and Mohammed added a career-high 12 as Philadelphia beat the Lakers 112-97, improving the NBA's best record to 38-14.
"I'm almost afraid to wake up," Brown said. "I don't know who else won't be there."
Brown hasn't had a full lineup to play with at any point this season, yet the Sixers continue to thrive.
Geiger had just returned from a lengthy absence following knee surgery. Eric Snow missed 32 games with a stress fracture in his foot. Toni Kukoc sat out seven games with a strained back, and rookie guard Speedy Claxton went down with a season-ending knee injury in preseason.
"I'm just trying to get us through this period where we have all the injuries and try to build for the stretch," Brown said.
Iverson is getting the Sixers through it just fine. He reached 40 points for the second consecutive night and the 11th time this season.
O'Neal, who was guarded by backups Mohammed, Todd MacCulloch and Jumaine Jones, led Los Angeles with 29 points.
Bryant added 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but received a lecture from his coach during a timeout late in the third quarter.
"It wasn't Kobe's best game, we'll just say that," coach Phil Jackson said.
Iverson went at Bryant right away, scoring 15 points in the first quarter. Bryant, coming off a 38-point performance in an overtime victory the previous night at New Jersey, was a step slow.
"I was tired, and normally when I'm tired I cruise and try to get my teammates involved, then turn it on in the fourth quarter," Bryant said.
O'Neal wasn't buying it.
"He shouldn't be tired. He's only 22," O'Neal said.
Isaiah Rider hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter for a 32-31 Lakers lead, but the Sixers scored the next six points, ending with a 3-pointer by Kukoc off a behind-the-back pass from Iverson.
Mohammed, who made his second start of the season, hit a jumper over O'Neal with 6:02 left in the third to surpass his previous career-high of 11 and give the 76ers a 69-63 lead.
"I've been begging every team in the league to take him for the last two years," Brown said of Mohammed. "It's not fair to keep a young center on the bench."
Philadelphia took an 82-70 lead at the end of the third on a 3-pointer by Snow and a dunk by MacCulloch. A fast-break layup by Iverson capped a 7-0 run that made it 89-72 early in the fourth.
Iverson got a standing ovation when highlights of his All-Star MVP performance were shown on the scoreboard during the game's first timeout, and the fans broke into a loud chant of "M-V-P" as he reached 40 points with 1:28 left.