- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

76ERS 97, RAPTORS 92

PHILADELPHIA Allen Iverson spent most of Tuesday telling anyone who would listen that Game 2 of the Philadelphia 76ers' second-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors would result in two things: a Sixers victory and a tied series.

Last night in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,870 First Union Center, the diminutive Iverson delivered in a very big way.

Facing single coverage for most of the night, Iverson scored a career playoff-high 54 points to lead the 76ers to a 97-92 victory over the upstart Raptors and even the series at 1-1.

Iverson turned in a performance for the ages. He scored 19 straight points in the fourth quarter, beginning at the 8:52 mark and ending with his exit from the game with 14 seconds left.

"In the first game I just took what they gave me," Iverson said. "Tonight I said 'I'll take what I want.' My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, and my coach did a great job of recognizing that tonight I was in a rhythm."

The First Union Center reverberated to cheers of "MVP! MVP!" as Iverson left the court with his team leading 97-89. He was cheered not only by the fans in the arena but also was applauded by his teammates both on the court and on the bench.

"It just came at a spectacular time, with the playoffs, an intense atmosphere and everyone is chanting 'MVP,' " said teammate Aaron McKie of Iverson's performance. "Everyone is looking at him, the spotlight is on him and he's coming up big."

Iverson finished 21-for-39 from the field. His 21 field goals were 13 more than the total number of field goals made by the other four starters. Point guard Eric Snow, who finished with 10 points, was the only other 76er to finish in double figures in scoring.

Vince Carter, one of five Raptors to score in double digits, finished with 28 points. The Raptors made 38 of 83 shots from the floor. The 76ers were 34 of 79 from the floor.

"I'm disappointed because we thought we could win the game," Carter said. "I think we definitely gave it away. Regardless of how many points [Iverson] scores, we feel like we let this one get away."

Iverson got some help from his teammates, but most of it came from the free throw line, where the 76ers were 25-for-26. Philadelphia made its first 24 free throws.

The Sixers, who opened the best-of-7 series with a loss at home on Sunday, began last night's game as if they hadn't learned a thing from the Raptors' Game 1 upset. In that game, the Sixers turned over the ball 11 times in the first quarter, fell behind 44-27 in the second quarter and ultimately lost home court advantage by virtue of an 86-83 loss.

Last night, behind Carter's 10 first-quarter points, the Raptors led by 10 points at the end of the first period and by 35-21 at the start of the second.

That, however, is when Iverson began to demonstrate why he is the leading candidate to win the league's MVP trophy.

Iverson, who scored eight points in the first quarter while shooting 4-for-8 from the field, became more aggressive. He attacked the underbelly of the Raptors with fearless drives to the basket, beating both Chris Childs and Alvin Williams to the basket for layups. He also started to find his range from the outside.

"Tonight I played smart," Iverson said. "Tonight I just wanted to win, that's all. It didn't matter how many I scored."

In the second quarter alone, playing like a one-man show, Iverson went 8-for-11 from the field. Of the Sixers' 28 points in the quarter, Iverson was responsible for all but eight of them. Not surprisingly, it was Iverson, nailing an 18-footer with 56.3 seconds remaining in the first half, that gave the 76ers their first lead, 47-46, since they led 10-9 early in the first quarter.

Iverson, who has been given the green light by coach Larry Brown to take almost any shot he likes, struggled in the third quarter, making just three of 11 shots. Nonetheless, the 76ers were able to build their lead to 71-63 when reserve Jumaine Jones' 3-pointer swished through the net with 1:47 left in the quarter.

However, the resilient Raptors closed the quarter with back-to-back threes from Carter and Dell Curry that closed the Philadelphia lead to 73-71 going into the fourth quarter.

Both teams figure to fight frantically for the remainder of the series. The 76ers, the top seed in the East, have not won a seven-game series in 16 years. Toronto is coming off the first playoff series victory in franchise history over the New York Knicks and hopes to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

The Raptors head into tomorrow's game at Air Canada Center site of the next two games with something of an advantage. The Raptors and the Orlando Magic are the only two teams to win the regular-season series from the 76ers, having beaten them three of four games.

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