- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

TORONTO In the midst of a horrible shooting performance, Allen Iverson's last shot of the day, a jumper from the top of the key, looked like another case of poor judgment.

After all, the Philadelphia 76ers star had missed 20 of 29 shots against the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. And when he let his 30th shot go with the game tied in the fourth quarter and the Raptors surging behind the exhortations of 20,351 at Air Canada Centre there was so much at stake.

Hit it and the 76ers gather momentum and regain the homecourt advantage they relinquished in Game 1. Miss it and they find themselves in a deep hole, with Toronto taking a 3-1 lead in the series.

Iverson assured that the 76ers would not be in that predicament.

With Vince Carter jumping out at him and the shot clock down to five seconds, Iverson's 3-pointer hit all net to put the 76ers ahead for good with 2:21 remaining in a 84-79 victory that squared the series 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday in Philadelphia.

"Allen tried so hard to win the game," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "Again, a lot of us deferred to him, which put a lot of pressure on him late in the game. A lot of guys stepped up. Now this series is back on our court."

Iverson led the 76ers with 30 points, but for the first time in this series he got some help on offense. Guard Aaron McKie, who started in place of Eric Snow, made eight of 13 shots for 18 points, the most points scored by any 76er not named Iverson in the series. Ten of those points came in the third quarter, when Iverson shot a frigid 1-for-5. Center Dikembe Mutombo, perhaps riled up after being outplayed by Toronto center Antonio Davis in the first three games, finished with 13 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots.

But it was defense that put Philadelphia back in the series. The Raptors' 79 points were the fewest they have scored in their short playoff history, and their 33 percent from the field (27-for-81) also was a playoff low. Just two days removed from making 12 of 22 3s in their rousing 102-78 Game 3 victory, the Raptors made just four of 18.

"We had some good shots. We just didn't shoot the ball well," Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said. "Give the 76ers credit. We had our opportunities, but we made a few mental mistakes and didn't help ourselves. I thought their defense was a whole lot better than last time."

Rather than focus on his big shot, Iverson praised the efforts of his teammates, most of whom have been criticized for not giving him enough support at the offensive end.

"We always do it the hard way," said Iverson, who called a players-only meeting following Game 3. "We're not a finesse team. We don't shoot a high percentage. We always rely on our defense. I told my teammates before the game that we're the Number 1 seed in the East. Now we're in the playoffs, and it gets a little bit more serious than in the regular season. We've got to play like the top seed, and a lot of guys stepped up and accepted that challenge."

Carter, who made nine 3-pointers and notched a career- and playoff-high 50 points in Game 3, didn't come close to matching those numbers, scoring 25 points but needing 27 shots to do so. Carter pulled down 10 rebounds. All five Toronto starters finished in double figures. Davis finished with 15 points and Charles Oakley with 11, and both grabbed 11 rebounds.

Victory for the 76ers came in dramatic fashion but not without cost. The 76ers lost starting forward George Lynch for the remainder of the playoffs when he broke a bone in his right foot on a layup in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter. The 76ers will be forced to start either McKie or Jumaine Jones at small forward the rest of the way.

The 76ers never trailed after a 3 by Iverson gave them a 5-3 lead. With Iverson going for 23 points in the first half, the Sixers led by as many as 16 before taking a 49-36 halftime lead. But Chris Childs capped a 14-6 run with a 3 that tied the game with 2:46 to play.

However, the Raptors, perhaps exhausted by their comeback, did not score again.

"We dug a big hole," Carter said. "The best thing about it is we made a comeback. But when you have to fight like hell to catch up, sometimes you don't have enough energy at the end."


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