Led by 44 points from the league MVP, Philadelphia takes a 108-91 win and gets ready for a trip to L.A.
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 4, 2001
PHILADELPHIA -- To chants of "Beat L.A.," Allen Iverson cupped his hand to his ear and danced around the court, skipping like a little kid before jumping into the arms of his coach.
"We just kept fighting, and we had a great leader to listen to," said Allen Iverson, referring to coach Larry Brown. "He led us all the way.".
There were still 42 seconds remaining in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, but it was all over by then. The 76ers knew they were going to the NBA Finals and the celebrating had begun.
Iverson showed why he was the MVP and Dikembe Mutombo showed why the 76ers traded for him as they combined to lead Philadelphia past the Milwaukee Bucks 108-91 Sunday night.
"We just kept fighting, and we had a great leader to listen to," Iverson said, referring to coach Larry Brown. "He led us all the way."
Iverson had his best all-around game of the series with 44 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. He shot 17 for 33, making more than half his shots for the first time since Game 6 of the second round.
Mutombo, acquired in a risky trade with Atlanta in February that the 76ers hoped would propel them to the finals, was dominant, too, with 23 points, 19 rebounds and 7 blocks.
"It doesn't get much better than this when you consider what this team has been through, and to have Allen play like he did and Dikembe come over here ... I'm just so proud," Brown said. The 76ers took control of the game late in the third quarter after Milwaukee's best player, Ray Allen, went down with a knee injury. The Bucks trailed by six when Allen left and by 12 when he returned, and they never made a run in the fourth quarter.
The final minutes turned into a lovefest between the Sixers and their ecstatic fans who had been waiting since 1983 for another trip to the finals.
"I can't even put it into words. Best feeling I ever had," 76ers guard Aaron McKie said.
"I always dreamed about playing the Lakers in the finals."
The finals begin Wednesday night at Los Angeles, where the Lakers will have been waiting 10 days since their most recent game. Los Angeles, which has yet to lose this post-season, was established as an 111/2-point favorite in the opener.
Iverson and Mutombo were the main reasons Philadelphia dominated the final game, but they weren't the only ones.
McKie had 10 points and a career-high 13 assists, and little-known Raja Bell -- a rookie who signed a 10-day contract with the 76ers on April 6 -- scored 10 points in the second quarter when Philadelphia took the lead for good, going on a 21-6 run after he entered the game.
"The whole game changed when Raja Bell came in," Iverson said. "I asked Coach where did he get him from, and Coach just pounded on his heart."
The 76ers did all the little things -- deflecting balls, creating turnovers, grabbing offensive rebounds -- that Milwaukee didn't while playing with confidence and composure.
Philadelphia created 15 turnovers, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, scored 19 second-chance points and had 11 steals.
Milwaukee was led by Allen's 26 points, Glenn Robinson's 24 and Sam Cassell's 20.
Iverson scored Philadelphia's first six points of the third quarter and the Sixers were ahead 68-61 when Allen was called for an offensive foul as he tried to drive around Eric Snow. The two banged knees on the play, and Allen stayed down for two minutes before walking off gingerly. As the Bucks came out of a timeout, Allen was helped to the locker room.
Allen returned to the bench late in the third quarter -- just in time to see Iverson step back and make a three-pointer at the buzzer for an 82-71 lead.
Allen then reported to the scorer's table 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, giving him a perfect view from behind Iverson as Iverson launched another three-pointer from nearly the identical spot to secure an 85-71 lead.
That was pretty much the end of things.
"We've talked all series about his ability to explode," Bucks coach George Karl said.
"He proved himself to be a great player tonight. He moved himself to a standard that very few players get to."
The 76ers did get a scare when Iverson fell hard to the floor and jammed his left wrist with about three minutes to play. He stayed in the game and took part in the celebration, running to hug his family as Tyrone Hill and Sixers president Pat Croce danced atop the scorer's table.
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