He bettered his previous playoff high of 54 in Game 1 of the first-round series.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson closed his eyes, raised his arms in the air, walked toward the crowd and soaked it all in.
His best playoff performance was drawing to a close, and Iverson made sure he savored the deafening cheers.
Iverson scored 55 points Sunday night in an incredible display of shooting, making 21 of 32 shots while eclipsing his previous playoff high of 54 as Philadelphia beat New Orleans 98-90 in Game 1 of the first-round series.
"It's the best feeling in the world when you know the fans are enjoying it," Iverson said. "When I'm out there on the basketball court in front of 20,000 people, and I'm making shots and they're into it and jumping up and cheering, that's what I get the goose bumps from because I know when these people leave this arena, that might be something they'll cherish for the rest of their life."
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
20 points in the final quarter
Iverson scored 20 points in the fourth quarter after his 3-pointer in the final minute of the third gave the 76ers the lead for good.
The three-time NBA scoring champion and former league MVP joined Michael Jordan, Rick Barry, Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to score 55 or more in a playoff game. Jordan holds the NBA record of 63.
"That was his best ever, by far," Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. "He took it upon himself and did extraordinary things."
Iverson scored most of his points on jumpers. He hit nearly everything he tossed up with the exception of a stretch of five consecutive misses during the third quarter.
With Philadelphia clinging to a two-point lead, Iverson came off a pick from Keith Van Horn and hit a 3 to make it 89-84. On Philadelphia's next possession, he dribble-faked Stacey Augmon off-balance, stepped back and hit another 3 to reach 51 points and give the 76ers a 92-84 lead with three minutes remaining.
After the Hornets pulled to 94-90, Iverson used his lightning speed to drive around George Lynch for a layup that gave him his final points with 37.3 seconds to go.
Fifth time in career playoffs
Iverson reached 50 points for the third time in 46 career playoff games. It was his ninth game with at least 40.
"I caught a rhythm. The basket looked like an ocean, and I was just throwing rocks in," Iverson said.
Iverson reached 30 points just 3 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, but he missed his next five shots while being defended by Augmon before hitting a 3-pointer that gave the 76ers a 70-68 lead entering the fourth period.
Iverson then made his first four shots of the final quarter.
Eric Snow added 15 points and 10 assists and Aaron McKie had 12 for Philadelphia.
Jamal Mashburn led the Hornets with 28.
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