2001 NBA Finals

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Digging deep

With Iverson ailing, Sixers find a way to win

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Posted: Wednesday May 30, 2001 11:57 PM
Updated: Thursday May 31, 2001 8:44 AM
  Allen Iverson Allen Iverson (left) and Ray Allen battled down to the wire before the Sixers prevailed. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Playing on a fractured ankle and suiting up against his wife's wishes, Eric Snow became the latest hobbled hero for the Philadelphia 76ers.

After finding out earlier in the day that his sprained ankle was more seriously damaged than originally believed, Snow hit two jump shots in the final two minutes for Philadelphia's final four points as the 76ers overcame another poor shooting performance by Allen Iverson to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 89-88 Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"My wife is really upset with me. She supports me, but she's really worried that I'll do something and won't ever be able to play basketball again," said Snow, who limped noticeably throughout the game and wore a large cast to the post-game news conference. "I just wanted to give it a go and try to see what I could do, and I was fortunate enough to make a big contribution."

The victory wasn't assured until Glenn Robinson missed a 10-footer from the baseline and Ray Allen missed a tip-in at the buzzer.

Iverson finished just 5-for-27 from the field, but Snow shot 7-for-9 in scoring 18 points as the 76ers added another unlikely chapter to their season-long story of overcoming injury problems.

Bucks at Sixers
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Dikembe Mutombo was a surprising hero in Game 5.Start

CNNSI.com's Josie Karp reports from Philly on Eric Snow's incredible performance.
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"He won the game for us," teammate Aaron McKie said. "That was a gutsy performance. He's playing on an ankle that's almost broken."

The series resumes Friday night at Milwaukee, where the 76ers will try to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1983 and face the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dikembe Mutombo had his best game of the series with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 9-for-9 shooting from the foul line, while McKie added 15 points and had four of Philadelphia's 13 steals.

The Sixers, who trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, needed all they could get from those two as Iverson struggled from the field for the sixth consecutive game. Iverson missed his first seven shots, nine in a row later and his final three of the game.

"I didn't think I'd have a game like that with this much at stake," Iverson said. "In the past, if I go 5-for-27, I don't think we win."

Robinson had 22 points, Allen added 20 and Sam Cassell had 18 for the Bucks, who allowed the 76ers to have two four-point possessions and one five-point possession by picking up two untimely flagrant fouls and one technical foul.

Those 13 points ended up being huge for the 76ers, who shot just 37 percent from the field and turned the ball over 14 times.

SI's Marty Burns
You've got to hand it to the Sixers. On a night when Allen Iverson couldn't buy a shot, they picked up their defensive intensity, hit the boards, made their free throws and found a way to win. They showed the mental toughness of a champion.

As for the Bucks, they seem to be learning their playoff lessons the hard way. Silly fouls, turnovers, and not being able to play through the officiating have plagued them all series. Ray Allen, who scored 20 points and did a yeoman's job defensively on Iverson, deserved a better fate. 

The Bucks led throughout the first half but lost their edge when Cassell picked up a technical foul and Robinson was charged with a flagrant foul in the third quarter.

The 76ers scored four consecutive points from the line on both calls, then took an 85-82 lead with 3:49 left on a five-point possession as Tim Thomas flagrantly fouled Tyrone Hill, who made both free throws, and McKie converted an offensive rebound and drew Ervin Johnson's sixth foul.

Milwaukee scored the next four points before Snow hit a wide-open jumper from 15 feet. Allen was then called for a questionable offensive foul, Iverson missed a drive and Thomas threw away a pass after Milwaukee grabbed an offensive rebound.

With the clock ticking inside 35 seconds, Snow hit a 20-footer to make it 89-86.

"He doesn't miss shots like that at the end of fourth quarters. I'll give him that shot every time in the first, second or third quarter," Robinson said.

Milwaukee's Jason Caffey scored from the lane with 18 seconds left, and the Bucks fouled McKie with 13.9 left. The 76ers had made 25 of 26 free throws to that point, but McKie was short on both attempts.

Milwaukee got the ball to Robinson for a good shot, but it wouldn't go -- and neither would Allen's tip.

"It never should have come down to that," Robinson said. "We basically gave them 10 points. We have to make sure that if we go down, we go down playing the right way."

The Sixers now have a 3-2 lead in the series, and teams that have taken such a lead have gone on to win 83 percent of the time.

In addition to a sprain, Snow also has a hairline fracture of the ankle running perpendicular to a two-inch long screw that was inserted after a previous fracture.

Sixers team physician Dr. Jack McPhilemy said there is a risk of further injury and that Snow had made the decision to play. Snow risks breaking the screw or further displacing the fracture, and the team doctors did not recommend one way or the other whether he should play.

Snow wore a special brace on the ankle in addition to heavy tape to protect it from a 90-degree turn.

Iverson finished the first quarter shooting 2-for-10, and he missed all three of his shots in the second quarter. Mutombo (13 points) and Snow (10 points) kept the 76ers within striking distance through the second quarter, but Thomas had four foul shots in the final minute to help Milwaukee take a 51-42 halftime lead.

Iverson missed a wide-open corner jumper early in the third quarter, making him 2-for-18 from the field, and everything seemed to be going Milwaukee's way as Cassell hit consecutive jumpers over Iverson for a 63-55 lead.

Moments later, though, Cassell fouled Iverson on a 3-point attempt and picked up a technical foul for arguing. Iverson hit all four free throws, Mutombo converted a hook shot and Iverson finally hit a jumper -- making him 3-for-20 -- to tie it at 63-all with 2:40 left in the third.

Notes: Robinson, who complained that he hadn't attempted a foul shot in the first four games, went to the line with 7:36 left in the first quarter but missed his first attempt. ... Mutombo and Iverson had plenty of Georgetown supporters in the stands, with Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and John Thompson in the building.

Related information
SI's Jack McCallum: Rethinking The Answer
SI's Phil Taylor: Postseason potpourri
Sixers' Snow to play despite fractured ankle
Mutombo helps lift Sixers to Game 5 win
Game Summary: Bucks-Sixers
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