Posted Jul 21 2011 9:51PM
Led by the league's best guard-center combination, the Los Angeles Lakers again steamrolled through the NBA. The Western Conference -- which had seven teams post 50 or more wins -- was no match for the chemistry of a young Kobe Bryant (28.5 points per game, fourth in the league) and Shaquille O'Neal (29.7 ppg, third in league).
Yet as dominant as Bryant and O'Neal were, the Lakers saw fit to upgrade their post defense before the season. The Lakers, as part of a four-team, 11-player deal, sent Glen Rice to the Knicks in a trade that netted Horace Grant and Greg Foster. Both Grant and Foster had played under Phil Jackson and were skilled in running the Lakers triangle offense. Grant, in particular, was a solid defender the Lakers needed for their second title run.
L.A. overcame injuries to Derek Fisher, Bryant and O'Neal and edged out the Kings in the last week of the season to win the Pacific Division. Once in the playoffs, the Lakers would trample the West, going 11-0 to clinch a second straight Finals berth.
In the East, the 76ers quickly rose to the top of the heap behind their coach, Larry Brown, and the play of the mercurial, talented (and eventual season MVP) Allen Iverson. Philly's playoff journey wasn't an easy one, though. It had to claim Game 7 wins over the Raptors in the East semis and the Bucks in the East finals just to reach their first NBA Finals since 1983.
Once on the big stage, the Sixers dealt the Lakers a shock in Game 1 as Iverson powered Philly to a win. But the Lakers recovered to win four straight and lock up their second consecutive championship.
O'Neal, matched up with Philadelphia's defensive ace, Dikembe Mutombo, dominated him and the paint in the 2001 Finals. He averaged 33.0 points and 15.8 rebounds against Philadelphia to claim a second straight Finals MVP trophy. L.A.'s playoff run was unprecedented as it went 15-1 -- the lone loss coming in Game 1 of The Finals.
Despite their loss in The Finals, the Sixers made their mark on the season. Four 76ers won postseason awards: Larry Brown was the Coach of the Year, Aaron McKie was honored with the Sixth Man Award, Mutombo, who was acquired in a midseason trade, was named Defensive Player of the Year and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner and Iverson was MVP.
Two former Georgetown centers found themselves at the crossroads of their careers. The Miami Heat's Alonzo Mourning missed most of the season with a kidney ailment, and then shocked everyone by returning for the final 13 games before the Heat were swept out of the first round by the Charlotte Hornets.
Before the season began, the New York Knicks traded their all-time leading scorer, Patrick Ewing, to the Sonics.
Isiah Thomas returned to the NBA, this time as the coach of the Indiana Pacers, the defending Eastern Conference champs.
Eastern Conference first round
Charlotte defeated Miami (3-0)
Milwaukee defeated Orlando (3-1)
Philadelphia defeated Indiana (3-1)
Toronto defeated New York (3-2)
Western Conference first round
Dallas defeated Utah (3-2)
L.A. Lakers defeated Portland (3-0)
Sacramento defeated Phoenix (3-1)
San Antonio defeated Minnesota (3-1)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Milwaukee defeated Charlotte (4-3)
Philadelphia defeated Toronto (4-3)
Western Conference semifinals
L.A. Lakers defeated Sacramento (4-0)
San Antonio defeated Dallas (4-1)
Eastern Conference finals
Philadelphia defeated Milwaukee (4-3)
Western Conference finals
L.A. Lakers defeated San Antonio (4-0)
L.A. Lakers defeated Philadelphia (4-1)
PPG -- Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (31.1)
FG % -- Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers (.572)
FT % -- Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers (.928)
3PT % -- Brent Barry, Seattle SuperSonics (.476)
Assists -- Jason Kidd, Phoenix Suns (9.8)
Rebounds -- Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia 76ers (13.5)
Steals -- Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (2.5)
Blocked Shots -- Theo Ratliff, Philadelphia 76ers (3.7)
Most Valuable Player -- Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie of the Year -- Mike Miller, Orlando Magic
Defensive Player of the Year -- Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia 76ers
Most Improved Player -- Tracy McGrady, Orlando Magic
Sixth Man of the Year -- Aaron McKie, Philadelphia 76ers
Coach of the Year -- Larry Brown, Philadelphia 76ers
All-Star Game MVP -- Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers
Finals MVP -- Shaquille O'Neal, L.A. Lakers
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