2001 NBA Finals

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Closer Look

Toronto finds out how Sixers' Jones got his nickname

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Posted: Thursday May 17, 2001 1:37 AM
Updated: Thursday May 17, 2001 12:37 PM
  Jumaine Jones, Charles Oakley The Sixers' Jumaine Jones made the most of his first career start. AP

By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated

PHILADELPHIA -- Chalk one up for the "Thrilla from Camilla."

That's the nickname Sixers forward Jumaine Jones, who attended high school in the tiny town of Camilla, Ga., got as a college star at the University of Georgia.

The Toronto Raptors now know why.

Making his first career start, Jones stepped in for injured forward George Lynch and helped ignite the Allen Iverson-led inferno that swept over the hapless Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-7 second-year pro scored seven of his nine points in the first five minutes, helping the Sixers sprint to a 13-4 lead, then played solid defense on Vince Carter and Alvin Williams the rest of the way, to help Philadelphia take a 3-2 edge in the series.

"Jumaine just made two steps up tonight," Sixers forward Tyrone Hill said. "He graduated from a rookie to a fourth-year player. The way he came out, got the ball and hit his first shots showed his maturity."

When Lynch went down with a broken left foot in Game 4, many thought the Sixers might be in trouble. After all, Jones had played sparingly in the playoffs and had only 98 career games under his belt. Though he had shown flashes (nine points and five boards against the Raptors in Game 2), it was uncertain whether he would be able to handle a starting role in a pivotal game with the Sixers' title hopes on the line.

After just a few moments, however, it was evident the Thrilla still could be a killa'.

Jones opened the game by calmly taking a pass from Iverson on the right wing and swishing a 3-pointer to give the Sixers a quick 5-0 lead. He then took 6-foot-1 Raptors guard Chris Childs into the post and buried a 14-foot fadeaway jumper for a 7-0 lead. After grabbing a defensive rebound on the following possession, Jones sent the crowd into a frenzy by taking a backdoor lob from Iverson and ramming home a reverse dunk.

"I was so energized and excited about starting my first game, and in the playoffs," Jones said. "I just wanted to go out, play hard and let things fall into place."

Afterward, Jones happily faced down a crowd of reporters at his locker and credited his teammates for having confidence in him. He said he was especially surprised when his teammates, seeing him matched up against Childs, called a play for him on the court. "They called a 'Drop for Jumaine,'" Jones said with a chuckle. "I was like, 'Hey!' But it showed they had confidence in me."

For Jones, it was like being back in college again. At Georgia, he was the first sophomore to score 1,000 points since Dominique Wilkins and earned his memorable nickname from one of the team's TV analysts. The Sixers liked him and engineered a draft-day deal to acquire him after the Hawks selected him with the 27th pick of the first round.

Jones might not have liked waiting for a chance to play, but now he's feeling much better. After the final horn sounded, he clapped his hands, pumped his fists and hugged teammate Rodney Buford on the court.

For the Thrilla, there was no bigger thrill.

Related information
Carter leaves game after collision with Mutombo
Iverson's 52 leads Sixers over Raptors in Game 5
TNT/TBS' Kenny Smith: Win or Go Home Report
SI's Marty Burns: Raptors' Davis playing big
Sixers' Lynch undergoes surgery on broken foot
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