- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

PHILADELPHIA Allen Iverson's first love was football, not basketball. So it stands to reason that the one-time all-state high school quarterback from Virginia would recognize holding when he sees it.

And according to the Philadelphia 76ers guard, that's just how the Los Angeles Lakers are defending him in the NBA Finals.

"It's totally different," Iverson said when questioned about the perceived grabbing and holding of Los Angeles guards Tyronn Lue and Derek Fisher. "You get away with a lot of things in the playoffs.

"I really don't care too much about the fouls being called as far as going to the basket and all that stuff, but the only thing I have a problem with is the holding. If somebody holds me, I can't do what got us here. That's the most frustrating part, just being held. Held like I'm 350 pounds."

His Sixers trail the Lakers 2-1 in the finals and Iverson knows that it is crucial that he has a good, if not great, outing tonight in Game 4 at the First Union Center. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to win the championship.

A great game for Iverson is one in which he is scoring points in bunches. For example, in the six postseason games that Iverson has scored 44 points or more, the 76ers are 5-1. The one loss came in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals when the Sixers rallied from 33 points down in the third quarter before losing 110-100.

But since blistering the Lakers for 48 points in Game 1 for a 107-101 overtime upset, Iverson has had trouble shooting against the Lakers defense. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has used Fisher and Lue to guard Iverson almost exclusively and has had some success. In Games 2 and 3, Iverson was a combined 22-for-59 from the floor.

Fisher has had to sacrifice much of his offense for defense on Iverson. However, the 6-foot, 175-pound Lue has been a surprise for the Lakers. Lue was hardly used in the Lakers' three previous series, but Jackson has turned to the speedy guard with a directive of keeping the ball out of Iverson's hands. He has forced Iverson to work hard for anything he gets.

Lue and Iverson got into an exchange in Game 3, a confrontation that became so heated that both received technical fouls. Lue said yesterday that he thought his defense has helped wear down Iverson. He also believes that he has gotten to Iverson mentally, claiming that Iverson knows Lue will play the Sixers' star more aggressively than Fisher.

"I mean, anytime you get into a jawing match with me, I think I'm getting into his head a little bit," Lue said.

Fisher, who developed into somewhat of an offensive threat in series victories over Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio, said he doesn't mind sacrificing offensive numbers to slow Iverson. He also added that the Lakers will double team Iverson when necessary.

"Allen's ability to play on the offensive end is obviously above average," Fisher said.

"He's so aggressive; his mentality is to get the ball in the basket and even when you are playing good defense it's still hard to keep him from scoring. But it's not impossible.""

Television replays tend to backup Iverson's claim that the Lakers have gotten away with holding and grabbing him. However, Iverson, who grew weary of the Bucks' whining about the referees showing favoritism to Philadelphia, won't complain, at least not too much.

"What they're doing, every time I get the ball, they're trying to get the ball out of my hands," Iverson said. "They're doing what they're supposed to do doubling me, playing hard. They'd be a fool to play me one-on-one. If I played one-on-one against a guy all night, then I'll destroy the guy."

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