Iverson, Sixers go back to Philly with confidence
Updated: Saturday June 02, 2001 2:41 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
In the fourth quarter of their blowout Game 6 loss Friday night to the Bucks, the Sixers bench looked at times as if it was the team conducting the rout instead of the other way around.
Funny how one quarter, and Allen Iverson suddenly finding his shooting touch, can change a team's thinking. Instead of going home hurt and embarrassed after such a bruising defeat, the Sixers walked off the Bradley Center floor strangely confident.
"I feel good about my squad," said Iverson, who pumped in 26 points in the final quarter to help Philadelphia whittle a 33-point Milwaukee lead to 10 before falling short. "We played bad in the first half. But we fought hard to get back in it."
Make no mistake, the Bucks did what they had to do Friday night. They staved off elimination and forced a decisive Game 7 on Sunday in Philadelphia. But it's what they failed to do that might come back to haunt them.
Given a chance to bury the Sixers' confidence, the Bucks let them off the mat. In particular, they allowed Iverson to rediscover his shooting stroke. The cat-quick guard entered Game 6 having shot just 27.5 percent in the series. He picked up where he left off in the first three quarters of Game 6, hitting just seven of his first 21 as Milwaukee built an 80-54 lead.
Instead of resting his aching tailbone for Game 7, however, he went back on the court for the start of the fourth quarter and rediscovered his stroke. He buried a 15-footer jumper to open the quarter, then followed with a 3-pointer in front of the Milwaukee bench that left him tangoing momentarily with Bucks coach George Karl. While the Bucks played as if they were waiting for the game to end, Iverson just kept cranking it up.
"He was unstoppable," said Bucks guard Ray Allen, who poured in 41 of his own and helped stem the Sixers' comeback with two big 3s down the stretch.
Strutting more confidently with each shot, Iverson continued his onslaught throughout the fourth. He buried another 3-pointer from the other side of the court, drawing a foul from Lindsey Hunter in the process. Then he made a steal and drew a foul from Jason Caffey for a conventional three-point play. A few more jumpers here, a 3-pointer there, and suddenly the Sixers were back in the game.
Iverson wound up 7-of-12 in the fourth quarter, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. It was the fourth most points ever scored in a single quarter of a playoff game.
"He was phenomenal," Sixers coach Larry Brown said.
Added Snow: "Hopefully that second half will carry over into Game 7."
The Bucks certainly hope not. Until Friday's fateful fourth, Allen had done a masterful job pushing Iverson to his left, where he doesn't like to go, and generally forcing him to take tough shots. Once Iverson starts hitting, however, there's nothing anybody can do to stop him.
"We probably lost control of him for the first time this series," Karl admitted. "He probably had more confidence in the fourth quarter than he's had all series."
The Bucks can only hope that, in victory, they didn't plant the seeds of their next defeat.