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Mutombo, Sixers swat Heat

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- Dikembe Mutombo had 18 rebounds, blocked five shots and altered countless others Wednesday night, more than making up for another poor shooting night from Allen Iverson as the 76ers beat the Heat 79-69.

The tense, defensive-minded game ended with the fans taunting Miami coach Pat Riley, who questioned the Sixers' loyalty a day earlier for their trade of Theo Ratliff for Mutombo.

The Sixers beat the Heat for the third time this season, and Riley and his big men got a close-up look at what a difference Mutombo can make. Mutombo's presence forced Miami center Brian Grant to shoot 1-for-13 and forward Anthony Mason to go 1-for-8.

Iverson attempted 27 shots and missed 21 but still finished with 27 points as he went 14-for-18 from the line. Rodney Buford added 16 points and Mutombo had 10.

Eddie Jones led Miami with 22 points and Tim Hardaway had 20. The rest of the Heat shot 8-for-42.

Philadelphia snapped a two-game losing streak and avoided its first three-game slide of the season.

Iverson scored 13 in the first quarter but went cold in the second, missing all six of his shots, although the Sixers still managed to build an eight-point halftime advantage as Buford scored 11 points in the quarter.

Philadelphia stretched its lead to 44-32 early in the third quarter as Iverson capped a 13-1 run with two free throws, but Hardaway hit three three-pointers to help Miami pull within three.

The Sixers took a 60-53 lead into the fourth, and Iverson scored five consecutive points -- three from the free-throw line -- to give Philadelphia a 68-57 lead with 7:08 left.

After Grant made two free throws, Iverson hit a three-pointer and Aaron McKie beat Jones on a drive to make it 73-59.

Earlier, Riley took back his comments questioning the loyalty of the 76ers for trading Ratliff when he was injured.

"I will firmly and without a doubt take the shoe out of my mouth," he said. "It takes a lot of guts to make a trade like that."

Philadelphia coach Larry Brown found the earlier criticism "remarkable." Philadelphia owner Pat Croce found it "awful," and wondered how the Heat coach and president could "stoop so low."

In the deal that brought Mutombo from Atlanta to the 76ers, Philadelphia sent Ratliff, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed and Pepe Sanchez to Atlanta. The 76ers also obtained Roshown McLeod.

At the time of the trade, Ratliff -- one of the best centers in the league this season -- was one day out of surgery in which a screw was placed in his wrist.

"I think they sent a message about loyalty," Riley said Friday, a day after the trade deadline.

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