Work in Sports
Iverson deserves love for postseason play
Posted: Saturday May 06, 2000 02:10 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
PHILADELPHIA -- In the final seconds of his team's playoff series-clinching victory over the Hornets Monday night, Sixers guard Allen Iverson cocked his head, put his hand to his left ear and paraded around the First Union Center court seeking love from the home crowd.
And why not?
Iverson not only scored a game-high 26 points and dished out seven assists to lead the No. 5-seeded Sixers past the No.4-seeded Hornets 3-1 in their best-of-five playoff series, he showed he's quite possibly the toughest little bugger in the NBA.
Heading into Monday's game, the six-foot, 165-pound Iverson's list of injuries read like a medical dictionary:
Despite the ailments, Iverson went out and delivered a typical stellar performance. He drove the lane fearlessly. He attacked the basket. He played hard defense. He drew double teams, then found teammates for open shots.
Yes, Aaron McKie's 3-point barrage was huge. Same with Matt Geiger's monster play. But with starting point guard Eric Snow out with a more severe ankle injury of his own, the Sixers could ill afford to have their star pull up lame in the biggest game of the season, and Iverson made sure he did not.
With the Sixers trailing 87-83 in the fourth quarter, Iverson alertly found McKie alone behind the 3-point line with a cross-court pass. McKie buried the shot and drew the foul on David Wesley for a four-point play that tied the game and sent the crowd of 20,712 into pandemonium. Moments later he stepped away from Eddie Jones in the corner, who tirelessly blanketed him throughout the series, and rattled home a 3- pointer of his own to give Philly a 99-95 lead.
In the final minutes, he twice put his head down and drove right into the heart of the Charlotte defense to draw fouls and put his team at the foul line, where it iced the game.
As always, he got banged and bumped and knocked to the floor. And as Always, he bounced back up, ready to do it again.
Say what you want about Iverson, but the kid is tough. Like a $2 steak. Like a Michelin radial. Like a Caesar's Palace pit boss.
"I think Allen is a throwback to the old days when guys played hurt," said Charlotte coach Paul Silas, a member of three NBA championship teams as a player. "He's playing with so many injuries. He doesn't complain. He gives it his all. The other guys see it, and it just uplifts them."
Iverson can be criticized for his occasional disregard for team rules, his blowups with coach Larry Brown, his thin skin and, yes, his ball-hog tendencies. But if this series proved anything it's that the kid with the braided hair, baggy shorts and No. 3 jersey has heart.
"Not only does he come to play, but he takes so much punishment [on the court]," Brown says. "It sends a message to your team. When your star player is obviously hurt and he lays it on the line, it's a real positive thing."
So go ahead and shower him with love, Philly fans. For this series, at least, he deserves it.