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Sixers strike first

Allen Iverson carries Philadelphia, which hands Los Angeles its first playoff loss.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 2001

Allen Iverson carries Philadelphia, which hands Los Angeles its first playoff loss.

LOS ANGELES -- There won't be a sweep in the NBA Finals unless it's the 76ers -- not the Lakers -- who can pull one off.

In a thrilling opener to the championship round, Allen Iverson had a mesmerizing first half, a poor second half and a clutch overtime, scoring 48 points to lead Philadelphia to a 107-101 victory Wednesday night.

Iverson scored seven points in a row after the clock ticked inside two minutes to give Philadelphia a lead it never relinquished. The 76ers ended the Lakers' 19-game winning streak, handing them their first loss in 67 days.

"We knew we could win before we came here, with everybody counting us out," Iverson said. "They thought we would get swept and that is like a slap in the face."

Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal both had 41 points at the end of the fourth quarter, but Iverson scored only three in the final 19 minutes of regulation as he was hounded defensively by speedy Lakers reserve Tyronn Lue.

O'Neal hit a jump hook for the first points of the overtime, Kobe Bryant spun around Eric Snow for a layup and O'Neal hit one of two from the line for a five-point lead with three minutes left.

Raja Bell flung up an underhanded shot with his left hand that fell through, and Iverson hit two free throws to get the 76ers within 99-98 with 1:46 left.

Lue then missed a drive and Iverson beat him downcourt and hit an open three-pointer. After a turnover by Rick Fox, Iverson buried a corner jumper over Lue for a 103-99 lead.

Bryant answered with a jumper, but Snow hit a runner from the lane with 10.5 seconds left for a four-point lead that all but ended the game -- along with all the talk about how the Lakers would sweep the 76ers and become the first team to go undefeated through the post-season.

"That's the way we are. We play hard," Iverson said. "We came in here expecting to win. We know we can win. Everybody's been counting us out."

O'Neal finished with 44 points and 20 rebounds, but Bryant scored 15 points on 7-for-22 shooting.

"I don't think Kobe Bryant had a Kobe kind of day and he will play better Friday," Snow said. "In OT, we came out slow but gathered the troops, Allen hit a big shot and we got some stops."

Game 2 is Friday night.

Iverson had his third consecutive 40-point game, and Snow and Dikembe Mutombo added 13 points each.

Fifteen minutes before tipoff, the crowd at Staples Center began chanting, "SWEEP! SWEEP!"

But when Iverson started hitting from all over, the chorus turned to "OOH" and "AAH."

Iverson scored 30 points in the first half as the 76ers came back from an early 13-point deficit.

It turned out to be a night when many prefinal expectations were proven false.

"There's no shame in being underdogs," 76ers coach Larry Brown said before the game. "I don't think we're offended. Look what the Lakers have done."

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