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1999 NBA Playoffs

Digging up bones

Sixers seek Answer to Iverson Rules

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Posted: Wednesday May 12, 1999 08:39 PM

  Magic coach Chuck Daly is using the type of defense on Iverson (middle) that he used to implement against Michael Jordan. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- He juked and dribbled and tried to find the slightest seam in the defense, attacking double-teams with his acrobatic moves. More often than not, it ended with Allen Iverson landing on the floor with a thud.

Chuck Daly, on a mission to stop the high-scoring Iverson, delved into his formidable memory bank and searched for a scheme that might help. He found it in a dusty old folder bearing a familiar name.

Michael Jordan.

A little retro-strategy by an old master has spiced up this first-round series between Daly's Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers. In Game 3 Thursday night in Philadelphia, the 76ers will have to come up with an answer for Daly's latest masterpiece -- the "Iverson Rules."

"If we come out like we came out in Game 2, no one can beat us," said Orlando's Horace Grant, teeming with confidence after the Magic hounded, hammered and battered Iverson and held him to 13 points in a 79-68 victory Tuesday night. "We came out playing that tough-nosed defense that Chuck taught in Detroit."

The Magic tied the series at 1-1 with the same kind of physical play that helped Daly's "Bad Boy" Pistons twice defeat Jordan's Chicago Bulls on the way to NBA championships. Those tactics, which came to be known as the "Jordan Rules," meant simply this: Wherever Jordan went, whether he had the ball or not, he would be greeted by numerous defenders, with arms and elbows flailing.

And a good pop under the chin, like the one Matt Harpring delivered to Iverson early in Game 2, is worth an occasional whistle as long as the message is sent.

That it was. On Wednesday, the Sixers said they got it -- loud and clear -- and promised retaliation.

"We have to protect him," Sixers coach Larry Brown said of Iverson. "I don't know if it's like hockey, but I guess it is. ... If they're going to hit him, we're going to hit them."

Daly's Pistons got past Jordan's Bulls in 1988, '89 and '90 and went on to win two NBA titles. They frustrated His Airness with a physical battering that set the tone in playoff basketball for a decade.

"A lot of rules have changed because of our physical play," said Rick Mahorn, the baddest of the Bad Boys who now plays a reserve role with the Sixers. "New York tried to implement it in their system a few years back where there was a no-layup rule. It's not a plan of having a massacre, but just playing hard within the rules."

Iverson said he felt fine the day after his crash course in what Mahorn calls "Bad Boy-ism." His only complaint was slight pain from a few jammed fingers -- the result of breaking so many falls.

Clutched in those fingers as he left practice was the videotape from Game 2, which Iverson took home to study.

"I think all of it was just good physical play that they were giving me," Iverson said. "I guess they were trying to send me a message."

After losing homecourt advantage with a 104-90 loss in Game 1, the Magic took exception to Iverson's challenge to Penny Hardaway. Iverson exclaimed, "Bring it on!" when Hardaway announced his intentions to guard the NBA scoring champion one-on-one.

"There's not enough you can say about the guy because he brings it," Orlando's Nick Anderson said. "He told us to bring it, and we brought it."

Iverson downplayed his exchange with Hardaway, instead calling on his teammates to protect him Thursday night in Philadelphia's first home playoff game since they lost in the second round to the Bulls in 1991.

"It would be crazy for me to go out there and give guys blows, because they probably wouldn't feel them anyway," said Iverson, who is 6 feet and weighs 165 pounds. "But it's important for our big men to try to send a message to those guys and give their guards some shots."

Mahorn, who has played only four minutes in the series, has never been afraid of trading shots with anyone. He loyally carried out Daly's orders in Detroit, and stands ready to enter the fray against his old coach on Thursday night.

"Just like coaches adapt to what they have, players adapt to what they need to get done," said Mahorn, grinning ever so slightly. "If it comes time for me to get out there, then I'm going to use it wisely."

 
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