2001 NBA Finals
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'Pressure is on them'

Sixers relishing underdog status in Finals

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Posted: Tuesday June 05, 2001 2:04 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 06, 2001 2:31 AM
  Allen Iverson Allen Iverson feels that all the attention the Lakers have received has created a low-stress environment for Philly. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson is glad that most people don't think the Philadelphia 76ers can beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"Everybody has counted us out, and I feel good about that," Iverson said Monday. "All the pressure is on them. It's like David vs. Goliath. Everybody picks the Lakers because they look like the sure shot. That's fine with us. We like it that way."

The Lakers, who haven't lost in more than two months, take a 19-game winning streak into Game 1 of the Finals on Wednesday night at the Staples Center. Los Angeles is a 12-point favorite in the opener.

Philadelphia, making its first trip to the finals in 18 years, is coming off consecutive seven-game series.

"Anybody who is going to play the Lakers after they won 19 straight would be considered an underdog against them," Sixers head coach Larry Brown said. "But I know my team, I believe in them, and you never know what these guys can accomplish."

The Sixers have been proving people wrong since they began the season with a franchise-best 10 consecutive victories. The team has overcome numerous injuries, including a broken foot that has kept forward George Lynch out of the past 10 games.

"When things don't look good, people count us out, and that's when we pull together," Aaron McKie said. "We don't want to go out there just to be there. Our focus is to win the series. Whether it's here or there doesn't make a difference."

The series would have opened at the First Union Center if the Sixers had beaten the last-place Chicago Bulls on the final day of the regular season.

Instead, Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo sat out, and Brown rested most of his other starters to prepare for the playoffs. It took a late 10-0 run for the Bulls, who finished with a league-worst 15-67 record, to beat Philadelphia's reserves 92-86.

The loss tied the Sixers with the Lakers at 56-26. Los Angeles got the home-court edge on a tiebreaker -- better record against the opposite conference.

After the loss to Chicago, Brown said he wasn't looking ahead to the Finals, didn't want to risk injury to any of his key players and was more concerned with getting out of the East.

Brown said Monday he doesn't have any regrets about the way he handled the final game.

"I didn't rest the guys just to rest them," Brown said. "They were legitimately hurt. I'm not smart enough to plan that far ahead. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it the same way."

Iverson didn't play against the Bulls because he was on the injured list with bursitis in his right elbow, an injury that continues to bother him and forces him to wear a protective sleeve on his arm. Mutombo had a sprained toe and missed his only game since coming to the Sixers in a trade on Feb. 22.

"Them having the home court is just another adverse situation, and we're motivated by that," McKie said.

Los Angeles hasn't lost Game 1 of a playoff series since Phil Jackson became its coach last season, posting double-digit victories in all but one of its seven series-opening games.


 
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Sixers president Pat Croce insists he likes his team's chances against the Lakers. (171 K)
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