Question: Who can stop the Answer?
Posted: Saturday May 08, 1999 10:49 PM
Darrell Armstrong will try. So will Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Matt Harpring and whoever else winds up isolated against the NBA scoring champion when he makes his playoff debut Sunday for the Philadelphia 76ers.
"He's going to get his, I don't care what you're going to do," Orlando coach Chuck Daly said.
"You study film and you can take away some of an opponent's offensive sets. But people who can create are still going to do that. That's what Iverson does. He can go anywhere he wants on the floor."
The challenge for the Magic will be to make sure the 76ers star doesn't move far without a defender right in his face. They'll bump him, make it difficult to come off screens and try to force him to take jump shots instead of penetrating to the basket.
Orlando had some success against Iverson during the regular season, holding him to 37 percent shooting and 22.7 points per game -- 4.1 less than his league-best 26.8 average.
But the 76ers won two of three meetings. They led the third before Armstrong stole an inbounds pass with 3.3 seconds and scored at the buzzer to give the Magic a one-point victory.
Iverson had 14 points on 5-of-21 shooting that night. The key to the five-game series that begins Sunday not only will be duplicating those kinds of numbers, but containing his teammates.
"It's going to be a total team effort. No one guy can stop Iverson. It's going to be five guys out there focused on the same goal, and that's playing him a lot tougher," Hardaway said. "At the same time, you can't let the guys who are supposedly role players on the team beat you."
In a pair of victories over the Magic in Philadelphia, Iverson had 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting on Feb. 6 and 38 points on 15-for-28 shooting in the most recent meeting on April 25.
"I don't think we had as much success as we could have," Hardaway said. "He's just so quick. You've really just got to make him shoot jump shots. You don't want him to get to the basket."
That's where the Magic are counting on Armstrong. He may be the only player on Orlando's roster with the quickness necessary to disrupt the Iverson's rhythm.
"He's so quick. I'm so quick. It'll be a fun game. I know he's going to beat me sometimes, but there will be times when he won't," Armstrong said. "He can destroy your confidence quickly. If you let that happen, you're done for the whole day."
The 76ers, on the other hand, are hoping that trying to contain Iverson on defense will take away from Armstrong's effectiveness on offense for the Magic.
Armstrong averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals this season and was instrumental in the team's surprising 33-17 record.
"He's usually their emotional leader, but he'll have his hands full chasing Allen," Philadelphia's Eric Snow said.
The playoff appearance is the first since 1991 for the 76ers, who finished with a 28-22 record as Iverson -- at six-feet tall -- became the shortest player in NBA history to win a scoring title.
"We're not afraid of anybody," Hardaway said. "Once the playoffs start, we're confident that there isn't any team that we can't beat, especially at home."
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