- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

76ERS 108, BUCKS 91

PHILADELPHIA That he was able to run, jump no, hurl himself chest-to-chest with his teammates as he left the court at the end of the third quarter was not a good sign for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even worse, he was able to pop up like a springboard after they knocked him to the floor on numerous occasions.
Allen Iverson was well last night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Seemingly no longer hampered by the bruised tailbone, the bursitis in his elbow and the myriad other injuries that shackled his incendiary game for most of this series, he erupted for 44 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers into the NBA Finals with a 108-91 victory over the Bucks at First Union Center.
The win gives the 76ers their first finals appearance since they swept the Lakers in 1983. It also marks the first time in Larry Brown's 18 seasons as an NBA coach he has guided a team to the finals.
The Lakers are heavy favorites to knock off the 76ers in the finals, which begin Wednesday in Los Angeles. The Lakers haven't lost since April 1, a stretch that includes all 11 playoff games. No team has gone through the playoffs undefeated.
Last night, though, the Sixers didn't sound as if they were satisfied with just an Eastern Conference title.
"We don't want to stop here," said guard Aaron McKie, who finished with 10 points and 13 assists. "We want to win it all."
Iverson was spectacular in a game that was supposed to pit the smallest MVP in league history against Milwaukee's Ray Allen, an emerging superstar in his own right. But that battle never developed, perhaps because Allen was knocked out of the game when he banged knees with the Sixers' Eric Snow late in the third quarter with the Bucks down six. Allen returned with 10:07 left in the game, but the Bucks, then down a dozen, never mounted a serious challenge. The lead grew as high as 19 points, and the Bucks never got within double figures.
Milwaukee coach George Karl, critical of the 76ers, finally gave them some credit, Iverson in particular.
"He was the wildcard tonight. He played like the MVP of the league," Karl said. "They got a super game out of him, and they got a very, very good game out of Dikembe [Mutombo]. They dominated us on the inside, which is what they had to do. What can you say? They did it."
Karl said before the game that Mutombo, who finished with 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocked shots, wouldn't be much of a factor. When asked if he regretted those words, Karl abruptly left the interview room.
Mutombo's response: "He's going home, and I'm going to the championship."
He's going because Iverson, as he did against the Toronto Raptors in the East semifinals, took his game to a level no other player on the court could match. Iverson finished 17-for-33 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free throw line, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds. As he left the court in the final minutes, Iverson ran around the perimeter of the court, his hand to his ear, listening to cheers of "MVP!" from 21,046. Minutes earlier, team president Pat Croce, who has come to symbolize the 76ers, ran around the lower bowl of the First Union Center slapping hands with the fans.
Iverson said there was some carryover from Game 6, in which he scored 26 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter in a rally that fell short. Before that game, Iverson was shooting 27 percent from the field.
"I never lose my confidence," Iverson said. "If I lose that part of my game, I'm losing 99 percent of my game. "It did help to get my stroke back, and obviously it did carry over. But I honestly thought it was our game from the start. I felt like we were going to win the game before they threw the ball up. It was up to us to take care of them in the fourth quarter and we did.
"I didn't try to put that much pressure on myself. I understand that pressure is what I go through in my everyday life. When I play basketball I don't try to put pressure on me. I go on the floor with four other guys. Without my teammates none of this would be possible. I felt that I had to do something to contribute and help my team win."
Power forward Tyrone Hill, often ridiculed during the playoffs, scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The 76ers even got 10 points, all in the second quarter, in nine minutes from rookie guard Raja Bell. The 76ers shot 45.5 percent from the field, and they outrebounded the Bucks 47-38.
They also treated the basketball as if it were made of platinum, turning it over just five times compared with 15 for the Bucks.
The trio of Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson led Milwaukee. Allen led the Bucks with 26 points. Robinson had 24, and Cassell, who fouled out trying to stay with Iverson, finished with 20 points and five assists.
"It was a complete effort in a lot of ways," Brown said. "We jumped out and did the things we had to do. They stayed with us, but I think our guys just didn't want the season to end tonight. They played hard from start to finish, and they didn't let up in the fourth quarter. That's the kind of effort we needed. That's the type of effort it's going to take to beat the Lakers. Winning the title has always been our goal."

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