An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: The Answer hangs 50
Day 25 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers franchise has three NBA titles, and has nine playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 16, 2001
Situation: The No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers and the No. 5 Toronto Raptors are tied, 2-2, heading to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Context: From the 1949-50 season to 1990-91, the Sixers were one of the league’s most consistent, competitive franchise. Philadelphia made the playoffs all but five years, including runs of 22 straight and 12 straight trips. Common among the Sixers’ successful teams were superstars: Dolph Schayes, Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Charles Barkley. But from 1991-92 to 1997-98, Philadelphia began to struggle. The Sixers cycled through six coaches in a seven-year span, and were led by not-so-household names such as Clarence Weatherspoon and Dana Barros. A product of the struggles, though, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Philly selected Allen Iverson; a 6-0, 165-lb. point guard from Georgetown University. His rookie season, “The Answer” averaged 23.5 points. He led the league in scoring in 1998-99, at 23 years old. And in the 2000-01 season, Iverson averaged 31.1 points per game — first in the league — 2.5 steals — first in the league — and 42 minutes per game. Behind AI, the Sixers’ winning percentage increased each season from 1996-97 to 2000-01; .268, .378, .560, .598, and finally, .683. As the East’s No. 1 seed in 2001, Philly took down the Pacers in four games, setting up a match-up with the Toronto Raptors and their superstar, Vince Carter. Carter and the Raptors struck first, winning the opener in Philadelphia. Iverson and the Sixers pushed back: AI dropped 54 points in Game 2, knotting the series, 1-1. Carter had a response, hanging 50 in Game 3 to give Toronto a 2-1 series lead. The 76ers then kept the seesaw series going, reclaiming home court advantage with an 84-79 win in Toronto in Game 4, and tying the series, 2-2, heading back to Philadelphia.
Recap: Seven days removed from his 54-point outburst — and five days removed from Vince Carter’s 50-point game — Allen Iverson again took over. On the same night he was given the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Iverson put together arguably his best offensive performance of the postseason. AI connected on eight of 14 threes, part of a 21-for-32 shooting night, and finished with 52 points, carrying the Sixers to a massive win over the Raptors. Philadelphia won, 121-88
Top players: Allen Iverson’s exceptional shooting was part of a lights out night from the field for Philly. The Sixers shot 60.3 percent from the floor, 52.4 percent from three, and a perfect 16-for-16 from the line. Vince Carter led the Raptors, but managed just 16 points.
After the game: Toronto bounced back to win Game 6 north of the border, but it was Philly that advanced, holding home court in Game 7, 88-87. Philly again needed seven games in the conference finals, but a 17-point win over the Bucks at home in the series finale propelled the Sixers to their first Finals berth since 1983. Allen Iverson dropped 48 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, leading Philly to a 107-101 win. It was the Sixers’ only win of the series, though, as the Lakers won in five games. Iverson finished his postseason run with eye-popping numbers: 32.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 46.2 minutes per game. In all, Iverson logged 1,016 minutes and fired 661 shots throughout the postseason. The following year, though, Philly couldn’t get out of the first round. And since the 2001 run to the Finals, the Sixers have advanced past the first round just once.
Check back tomorrow for the Pistons.
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