Too little, too late
Sixers hold off Pacers to take series lead
Updated: Monday April 30, 2001 6:08 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Allen Iverson loves the team whose fans seem to hate him most.
Iverson had 32 points and the Philadelphia 76ers silenced the Indiana hecklers by scoring their final 10 points on free throws to beat the Pacers 92-87 on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Eastern Conference first-found series.
Game 4 is in Indianapolis Wednesday night.
"Anybody can give up, but the team that beat us two years in a row isn't going to give up," Iverson said. "This whole series is something I'll cherish, because this team brings out a lot in Allen Iverson. This team helps me be a better player than I already am."
The Pacers, who eliminated the 76ers from the playoffs each of the past two years, erased a 15-point deficit and tied the game 82-82 with less than three minutes to go on a 3-pointer by Reggie Miller, who led all scorers with 35 points.
The Pacers had a chance to take the lead after George Lynch missed two free throws. But Miller missed a shot and Al Harrington fouled Dikembe Mutombo, whose two free throws started the 76ers' parade to the foul line. Iverson had three free throws, Aaron McKie and Tyrone Hill had two apiece and Eric Snow one.
"It was hard," Iverson said. "If they would have made a couple more shots, it might have been a different outcome. ... We stopped playing the way we were playing."
Philadelphia did not get a field goal in the final five minutes.
"It's a shame when you play good defense and stop teams from scoring and you don't let them get field goals and they beat you from the foul line," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "We were able to get back with a very small team, and they got to the free throw line. There's nothing you can do about that. But you've got to give them credit, because they were able to get to the line."
Philadelphia led 45-41 at halftime. After a tie at 49, baskets by Snow and Iverson put the 76ers ahead until the Pacers' late run in the fourth quarter. Iverson had six points during a 17-4 run that gave Philadelphia its biggest lead at 70-55.
"I got a couple one-on-one plays in the third quarter and took advantage of it," Iverson said. "Then they started doubling again and I started looking for Aaron and Eric. That's the thing. That's been important in this series, because if they're going to double I have to believe in my teammates."
Pacers fans behind the 76ers bench were generally well-behaved, and so was Iverson. The star guard was fined $5,000 by the NBA for shouting a derogatory remark about gays to hecklers the last time he played in Indianapolis.
This time, aside from a chorus of boos for Iverson during introductions, the most heated anger was directed at Matt Geiger. He received a technical after a hard foul on Travis Best in the second quarter.
Miller hit a free throw on the technical and followed with another basket to pull Indiana within 33-31. A pair of baskets by McKie, then a free throw by Iverson after a technical on Jalen Rose helped Philadelphia build the lead to 41-35.
The 76ers took their biggest lead of the half at 45-35 after two more free throws and a fastbreak basket by Iverson. A free throw by Austin Croshere and two foul shots by Miller cut it to 45-41 at the break.
"We had our chances," Miller said. "You can sit here and go through a list of things. The bottom line is they executed down the stretch and made the plays.
"We got into the game quick. Both teams went back and forth in the second quarter and they had a great third and we almost pulled off an improbable comeback in the fourth. All you want is chances."
McKie added 22 points for Philadelphia, while Rose finished with 19 and Croshere 13 for the Pacers.
"McKie was great the whole game," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "We wouldn't have won without him going the way he did. He came up with some big rebounds. We have to have people make big plays.
Notes: Iverson missed his first six shots and finished 11-for-28. ... Best, who fouled out with 2:11 to go, had eight points, nine assists and led the Pacers with a career-high 11 rebounds. Mutombo, the NBA rebounding leader this season, had 15 rebounds. ... One Pacers fan, face painted blue, wore a white bonnet with the words "Baby-Ivy" and another had duct tape over his mouth. ... Jeff Foster started at center for Indiana giving the Pacers a 19th different starting lineup this season.