- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

76ERS 121, RAPTORS 88

PHILADELPHIA If Allen Iverson had any nonbelievers who doubted that he deserved to be the NBA's Most Valuable Player, they certainly don't play for the Toronto Raptors.
With Julius "the Doctor" Erving one of the most fabled 76ers from the franchise's past in attendance, Iverson only added to his growing legend. After scoring a 76ers playoff record 54 points in Game 2, he had 52 last night when he was removed from the game with 4:25 left and the Sixers leading by 30 points.
Iverson's fireworks enabled the Sixers to cruise to a 121-88 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 20,939 at First Union Center and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Iverson said that being named MVP was now in his past.
"I owe too much to myself, my teammates and the fans to keep dwelling on that while the game is going on," he said. "I knew I had to come out and play basketball and just take my time and not try to do too much. I tried to catch a rhythm. Once I got in a rhythm I tried to stay in it."
Thanks to Iverson's outburst, the 76ers can end the series tomorrow night in Toronto. Game 7, if necessary, would be played here Sunday. A win in either game would land the Sixers in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1983, the year of their last NBA championship.
Iverson connected on 21 of 32 field goals last night and also set a 76ers playoff record with eight 3-point field goals.
One by one, Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens sent different defenders out in an absolutely futile attempt to rein in the fury that was Iverson. One by one, Iverson shot them down like helpless ducks in an arcade.
The performance left 76ers coach Larry Brown reaching for words to describe it.
"He's a great player playing at an incredibly high level at both ends of the court," Brown said. "He was great. He lays it on the line every night. When you have a great player, he is supposed to make other players around him better, and he's certainly doing that."
Alvin Williams absorbed most of the brutalization, but he was not alone. Also left flailing were Chris Childs and Vince Carter.
Wilkens finally resorted to double-teaming Iverson in the third quarter, but by then the game was already way out of reach. Carter, Iverson's counterpart in what has been billed as a battle of superstars, started coldly and never had much of an impact. Held to just seven points in the first half, Carter finished with 16 and left the game late in the fourth quarter after being hit in the head by Dikembe Mutombo's elbow. He later said he had a headache but would play in Game 6.
The Sixers were forced to start second-year forward Jumaine Jones at small forward in place of George Lynch, who is out for the rest of the playoffs after breaking his left foot in the Sixers' Game 4 victory Sunday in Toronto.
Jones is more athletic than Lynch, and he got a chance to show some of that in the first quarter. Guarded by Toronto's Childs, who gives away five inches to the 6-foot-8 forward, Jones scored seven points Lynch's high in the first four games was eight while going 3-for-5 from the floor.
Toronto's first quarter was about as disastrous as possible. The Raptors turned the ball over 10 times, took just 13 shots and scored just 12 points. Meanwhile, Iverson led Philadelphia to its best start of any game in the postseason.
With Iverson scoring 12 points by himself, the Sixers shot 62.5 percent from the field (15-for-25) and led 33-12 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the biggest number, at least as far as the Raptors were concerned, was 15.9, which is how many seconds were left in the quarter when Carter was whistled for his second foul.
Toronto played a little better in the second quarter and whittled the lead to 47-30 on Carter's three-point play and a 3-pointer by reserve guard Dell Curry. But just as he had in the first quarter, Iverson answered. As part of a 10-2 Philly run, Iverson added six more points that helped reestablish Philly's lead at 57-32. At halftime, he had 29 points and the 76ers led 62-40.
Iverson seemed to feed off of the energy that began before the game with spectators cheering him for his MVP Award. And instead of cooling off in the second quarter, Iverson made his first six shots and didn't miss a field goal until late in the quarter.


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