- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

76ERS 107, LAKERS 101

LOS ANGELES The Philadelphia 76ers just aren't going to go away in the NBA Finals.

The 76ers rallied from 13 points down in regulation and from five points down in overtime to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center 107-101 last night. Eric Snow sealed the victory when he hit a running jumper in the lane that gave the 76ers a 105-101 lead with 10.5 left.

The win took the homecourt advantage away from the Lakers and ended their winning streak in the playoffs at 11. The teams will play Game 2 here tomorrow night.

Allen Iverson led the 76ers with 48 points. Center Dikembe Mutombo added 12 points and 16 rebounds. Snow came off the bench to score 13.

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 44 points and 20 rebounds. Rick Fox added 19, but Kobe Bryant finished with just 15 points and shot only 7-for-22 from the floor.

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, the Sixers opened the third quarter on a 17-8 run to lead 73-58.

But that's when O'Neal began to assert himself. With Mutombo picking up his third foul early in the quarter, the Sixers were forced to pull him. With Mutombo no longer there to clog the lane, O'Neal went on an offensive tear of his own.

Scoring almost exclusively on dunks, O'Neal, who made seven of 10 shots in the quarter, scored 18 of the Lakers' next 25 points.

Meanwhile, Bryant focused his energies on defending Iverson. This helped the Lakers close what had been a 15-point deficit to 79-77 heading into the fourth quarter.

Philadelphia built its lead back up to 86-80 on baskets from Iverson and reserve guard Raja Bell. But Bryant pulled the Lakers even at 92-92 when he sank a jumper with 3:29 left in the game. And after Iverson missed at the other end, the Lakers went ahead on O'Neal's dunk with 1:57 left.

The Sixers pulled even on their next possession on a short jumper by Snow. The Sixers had a chance to go back up by two points when Mutombo was fouled by Robert Horry with 34 seconds left.

At the time, the 76ers were 19-for-19 from the line, but Mutombo usually not a bad free throw shooter missed them both.

Bryant turned the ball over with 18.9 seconds left in regulation, but the Sixers couldn't get into their offense in the final possession of regulation. Iverson, guarded tightly by reserve Tyronn Lue, never touched the ball, and Snow was unsuccessful on a jumper as time expired.

The Lakers hadn't played since they polished off the disappointing San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals May 27. But the Lakers exhibited none of the early rust that some thought they would.

With the 76ers struggling on the way to missing 10 of their first 12 shots, the Lakers used a 16-0 run to go from a 5-2 deficit to an 18-5 lead with 5:33 to play in the first quarter. But rather than rolling over, the Sixers, as has been their nature in these playoffs, scrapped their way back into the contest. With Iverson doing most of the damage, the 76ers held the Lakers to just two field goals the rest of the quarter while closing with a 17-4 run of their own.

Philadelphia continued to play poised and under control in the second quarter, outscoring the Lakers 34-27. The Sixers, who have had to rely on people like Jumaine Jones and Bell, this time got some help from reserve center Matt Geiger. Hurt for most of the season but nonetheless collecting close to $8 million this season, the 7-foot Geiger was 4-for-6 from the floor for eight points in the first half.

But it was Iverson who wreaked the most havoc against the Lakers in the first half. He scored 18 more points in the second quarter to give him 30 for the half. At the same time, he neutralized Derek Fisher. Fisher has become the third scorer in the Lakers' offense but Iverson held him scoreless in the first half.

O'Neal was his typical self in the first half, going for 18 points and collecting eight rebounds, but he didn't get the normal help from Bryant, who scored just four points and shot 2-for-10 from the field.

However, Fox picked up the slack for Bryant. Fox scored 10 points in the first quarter and made five of six shots from the floor in the half for 15 points.

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