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1999 NBA Playoffs

'This is my worst nightmare'

Larry Brown to face his former team

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Posted: Sunday May 16, 1999 07:37 PM

  Turnaround man: The Pacers reached Game 7 of the conference finals three of their past five years under Brown. Doug Pensinger/Allsport

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- It'll be reunion time at Market Square Arena when Philadelphia coach Larry Brown sends his 76ers against the Indiana Pacers, the team he helped build into a title contender.

"This is my worst nightmare, playing them," Brown said.

Under Brown's leadership from 1993-97, the Pacers were transformed from an also-ran into a club that reached Game 7 of the conference finals in three of the past five years -- including Brown's first two years as Pacers coach.

But Brown resigned following a tumultuous fourth season in which the Pacers failed to reach the playoffs and finished 39-43.

"I messed up in my last year there," Brown said after the 76ers won their opening round series with Orlando on Saturday. "Somewhere along the line, I hope I can make up for that with those guys. I respect everything about them. I respect what they've done and what they've meant for the league. I'm looking forward to this because I am a competitor, but it's going to be hard."

Game 1 in the best-of-7 series is Monday night at Market Square Arena, where Indiana has won its last 10 playoff games.

Both teams can expect to play before enthusiastic fans. Indiana fans were an inspiration as the Pacers defeated Milwaukee in the opening round. And Philadelphia's fans turned the First Union Center into a loud, unfriendly environment for the Magic.

The Sixers, in the playoffs for the first time since 1991, will take a 10-game home court winning streak dating back to the end of the regular season into Game 3 of this series.

"This year, it is the toughest place to play," Orlando's Penny Hardaway said after the Magic were eliminated. "The city was very excited, and they felt a great vibe from the team. ... This is the toughest and the loudest crowd that I've played against this year."

Larry Bird, who inherited the nucleus of his team from Brown, led it to a franchise-record 58 regular season victories and another trip to the conference finals his first year as coach. He tried Sunday to downplay the significance of Brown in the series.

"We've got a job to do. We're playing Philadelphia, which is a very solid basketball team. We'll go about our business, as always," Bird said. "We always say home court is very important to us, and we want to take care of it."

Nearly everyone on the Pacers played for Brown -- Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Derrick McKey and Jalen Rose.

"He's a great coach," Jackson said of Brown, who played for Brown with the Los Angeles Clippers as well as the Pacers. "Everywhere he's been, he's won. For some reason it didn't work the final year [here]. It just didn't work. That's as far as you can go with it. ... I just think it ran its course."

"I pushed too hard with some guys," Brown said. "I wasn't patient enough with some guys. I expected things that they weren't capable of doing."

Rose, who averaged 15.7 points as a reserve in three games against his former coach this season, spent much of Brown's last season with the Pacers on the bench, averaging a career-low 7.3 points in a career-low 1,188 minutes.

"We're approaching this as business as usual. Everyone knows Larry Brown is returning to face his old team," Rose said. "We can't really get caught up into that. We've got to go out and play, try to find a way to win a championship."

Jackson said the Pacers are playing a strong Philadelphia team with a "superstar" in league-scoring leader Allen Iverson.

"It's just another team that is in our way for us to accomplish our ultimate goal, which is to win the whole thing," Jackson said. "It doesn't make any sense pointing fingers, or saying anything special. The thing that is special is the opportunity for us to win the whole thing."

The 76ers won the season-series 2-1, with Iverson averaging 32.7 points in the three games.

"He can do a lot of things. He's a phenomenal scorer with tremendous heart and desire. I don't think you stop him with one guy. You have to do it collectively," Jackson said. "You're not going to stop him. You want to contain him, you want to challenge him, you don't want him to get anything easy."

 
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