With the NBA playoffs on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, here are some memorable 76ers playoff games dating to when they moved from Syracuse before the 1963-64 season. Is your favorite missing? Send feedback to Marc Narducci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eighth of 12 parts.
As much as the 76ers accomplished in the 2000-2001 season, what was most interesting about facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals was how big of an underdog they were.
Even though both teams had 56-26 records in the regular season, the Lakers were on a major roll and were well rested.
The Sixers were playing on fumes, having two exhausting seven-game series wins over Toronto and Milwaukee.
The only questions was if they would be too rested, having not played in 10 days before the Finals began.
Entering Game 1 in Los Angeles, the Lakers carried a 19-game winning streak. Seeded No. 2 in the Western Conference, the Lakers had won their final eight regular-season games and were 11-0 in the playoffs. In the first round, the Lakers swept Portland in three games during their best-of-five series. Then it was consecutive 4-0 sweeps over Sacramento and the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
“Nobody gave us a shot because the Lakers were well-rested, ready to go, and playing at a high level,” Sixers swingman Aaron McKie said recently. “We came into that game with a lot of confidence, not arrogance.”
The Sixers, for one night, defied the odds. With Allen Iverson scoring 48 points, the Sixers scored a 107-101 overtime win over the Lakers on June 6, 2001.
As it turned out, that would be the Sixers’ last hurrah. The Lakers got their footing and won the next four games to earn their second straight NBA title. They also won again the next season.
The Lakers scored the first five points in overtime to take a 99-94 lead, but the Sixers kept their cool.
“Overtime is five minutes,” Sixers coach Larry Brown said recently. “In the NBA, with a 24-second clock, that can be an eternity.”
In this case, Brown was right.
The Sixers scored nine unanswered points. Raja Bell, a late-season addition who averaged 15.8 minutes in the Finals because of Sixers injuries, began the run with a 6-foot jump shot.
Then Iverson took over, scoring seven straight points, including one of the more noteworthy baskets in NBA history.
The buildup to the basket is necessary. Iverson had been torching the Lakers, having scored 38 points when Lakers coach Phil Jackson brought in Tyronn Lue for the first time with under six minutes left in the third quarter to try to slow him down.
Lue stuck to Iverson like Velcro, and held the NBA’s MVP to just three points through the end of regulation.
Overtime was a different story.
With the Sixers leading, 101-99, Iverson, on the baseline, executed a killer crossover step to separate from Lue. He then made a corner jumper that Lue contested in front of the Lakers bench.
After the shot swished, Lue lost his footing and fell in front of Iverson. In deliberate fashion, Iverson stepped over Lue, before retreating on defense.
Iverson’s shot and then his step-over of Lue became part of NBA playoff lore.
“It was the dramatics of it,” recalled then-Sixers general manager Billy King. “He hit the shot and was very, very deliberate in stepping over him. It was the way he did it, looking down and then running off.”
Brown recalled the play: “It happened in front of their bench. I don’t think Allen meant anything of it. Phil put in Tyronn Lue to harass Allen and even though he scored in the 40s [Lue] did an unbelievable job.”
After that play, Kobe Bryant made a 15-footer to cut the Sixers’ lead to 103-101 with 34.2 second left.
Then Eric Snow came up big.
“While everybody talks about the play with Allen and Tyronn Lue, Eric Snow made a big shot late in the shot clock,” Brown said.
Snow’s 17-footer came with 10.5 seconds left, just as the 24-second shot was expiring. That increased the lead to 105-101, sealing the victory.
Another unsung hero was McKie, who played 50 minutes, 57 seconds and contributed nine points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. He also was the primary defender on Bryant, who struggled with 15 points on 7-for-22 shooting.
After the game, it was revealed McKie suffered a chipped bone in his ankle. McKie wouldn’t miss any time and averaged 41.3 minutes in the series.
“That time of year you are playing on adrenaline,” McKie said.
Dikembe Mutombo had 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Sixers
A key in the game was the Sixers were able to get almost 14 minutes out of ailing center Matt Geiger, who had 10 points but also fouled out.
Geiger and Mutombo combined for 11 fouls while trying to defend Shaquille O’Neal
The Sixers were able to withstand a monster game by O’Neal, who had 44 points and 20 rebounds. O’Neal went on to be the Finals MVP, averaging 33 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in the series.
What kept the Sixers in Game 1 was that O’Neal was 10-for-22 from the foul line. The rest of the Lakers were 5-for- 5..
Not often mentioned is the huge contribution from Lakers forward Rick Fox, who had 19 points and hit 3 of 6 three-pointers.
Iverson averaged 35.8 points in the series and was the leading scorer in four of the five games.
Even though he shot 17-for-41 in that Game 1 victory, Iverson came up with a clutch performance, especially in overtime. He played exactly the way McKie expected.