2001 NBA Finals

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Beast of burden

Sixers hope Iverson can carry them again

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Posted: Saturday May 19, 2001 6:16 PM
  Allen Iverson The Sixers need a huge performance from Allen Iverson if they're to advance to the conference finals. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson's dream season is coming down to one game.

Iverson won his second scoring title in three years, earned MVP honors in the All-Star Game and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player, but his year will be a disappointment if the Philadelphia 76ers lose to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

"I'm not ready to go home yet," Iverson said.

Less than 48 hours after scoring 52 points in a 33-point rout, the Raptors finally found a way to shut down Iverson, beating the Sixers 101-89 to force Sunday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Toronto sent two defenders at Iverson as soon as he touched the ball Friday night, smothered him into a 6-for-24 shooting performance and held the star guard to a series-low 20 points.

Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said he plans to employ the same defensive strategy against Iverson on Sunday. If so, the Sixers must get contributions from other players.

"We can't all rely on Allen, because we know they are going to double-team him," Rodney Buford said. "We all have to step up, play hard and play with more intensity. Allen just wants to win. He'll do whatever it takes to win."

This will be Iverson's first Game 7. Philadelphia is 2-2 in elimination games the past two years. The Raptors are 3-0 when facing extinction this season.

"This is an important game in his career," Sixers coach Larry Brown said after practice Saturday. "This is the way you define great players, when they play in elimination games and they have to step up. It'll be fun to see how he responds."

While most of the pressure appears to be on Iverson, Raptors star Vince Carter will have more eyes on him because he plans to attend graduation at the University of North Carolina on Sunday morning and then fly on a private plane to Philadelphia for the game.

"It's a difficult decision, but nevertheless it's made and it's over," Carter said Saturday.

Brown, a North Carolina alum, praised Carter for his accomplishment, but said he'd rather have him rested for the game.

"Hopefully, he'll be a little distracted," Sixers guard Kevin Ollie said. "He understands what he has to do. He knows it's a big opportunity for him, to win Game 7 and help his team go on.

"But in the other realm, outside of basketball, getting his degree is a great accomplishment and he needs to take care of that business, too. He's a professional. He'll be ready."

Every time Iverson has come up big this series, Carter has answered "The Answer." After Iverson scored 54 in Game 2, Carter had 50 the next game. Carter had 39 in Game 6, including nine points during a late 11-0 run.

"These are young kids, but I think both of them will play great," Brown said. "Allen is dying, anxious to play. Vince had a remarkable performance [Friday]. Both have had a tremendous series, and both will play great. I don't think Vince vs. Allen will determine the outcome of this game. I think it's going to be the other people."

Said Buford: "The guy with the best supporting cast will win Game 7."

In a series filled with bulletin-board material, Dikembe Mutombo fired the latest, guaranteeing the 76ers will win Sunday.

Charles Oakley -- no surprise there -- had the best response.

"In a ring, me and him fighting one-on-one, I guarantee I'd knock him out," Oakley said.

Related information
TNT/TBS' Kenny Smith: Win or Go Home Report
CNNSI.com's Kevin Loughery: Historical perspective
Carter, Raptors beat Sixers to force Game 7
Raptors' Carter to attend graduation then fly to Philly
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