by Bobby "Slick" Leonard
April 19, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS, April 19, 2001 -- The first thing people think about when it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers is Allen Iverson, and rightly so.
The little guy, he's got the total game. We've got two guys that will play him, Travis(Best) and Reggie(Miller). But the other guys have to be very aware of him. When he goes to the hoop, you've got to move out to get him. Make him make the pass and the guys on the help-side have got to cover for that pass underneath. Make him go back outside with a pass. It really takes a total team effort to play the guy.
Now the other side of the coin is to just go out, play him straight up and try to shut the other people down. This is tough. The guy, he's that good. And the thing I admire about him is he really plays both ends of the floor. If he's got his outside game going, he's tougher than nails. And he's the kind of guy who may miss four or five threes, then rise up and hit you with one right at a critical time. To me, that ballclub doesn't have a lot of scoring. If he has a bad night then it puts them in a tough spot.
In some of their games where Iverson was out, they couldn't muster up enough scoring and they lost five straight. So he's got to score points. That's the way their offense is designed. He's got the ball all the time. The thing is, you're not going to shut the guy down. It's too tough a job because he's got the ball all the time and he can hit the three, he can drive, stop and hit the medium shot, and he can take it all the way to the hoop. And he can make the play, too, when he's in there. If you come at him he'll lay it off and hit the open man for a layup. He's just a great player. That's all you can say about the kid.
They changed their team around a little bit when they traded Theo Ratliff and Toni Kukoc to Atlanta to get Dikembe Mutombo. When we played them, they did not go to Mutombo as an offensive player. Now, Brownie (coach Larry Brown) may do that a little bit more here and there; decide they need some scoring out of the middle so they'll go to Mutombo.
I think probably one of the biggest things in playing Philadelphia is that they really hammer the boards. They'll get those offensive rebounds on you and get those second chances and third chances. And if they're beating you on the defensive boards, Philly will get out of there and run with it because they want to get some easy hoops. They don't want to get in a halfcourt game.
I think one of the things you ought to take a look at is sending all five guys to the defensive board. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. And if we're starting with Jalen(Rose) and Reggie, you have to say to the guards, 'Don't run out.' We may need 15 rebounds out of those two guards. I've seen nights where Reggie's gone in and gotten eight or 10 and Jalen's the same way.
I think you've really got to go in on the defensive board and block out Tyrone Hill. He's played very good against us. Offensively, sometimes we let him get the ball down low where he can start backing in. And when a shot's taken, you know Tyrone Hill is going to go to the boards. He's going after those offensive rebounds and he scores a lot of points that way. The other thing is people don't realize how good a jumper George Lynch is. And he, and Tyrone and Mutombo, they're all going to the boards. So in that situation, send all our guys in there and battle 'em to make sure they don't get those offensive rebounds on us.
If you get into the bench, there's no question Travis will go out there and make Iverson work. And he can pressure Eric Snow. I think Brownie's probably looking for a little more scoring out of Eric Snow. I notice he's going to the hoop a lot more, looking to score a little bit. And (Aaron) McKie, I don't know what the situation is with his (shoulder) injury, but they desperately need McKie if they're going to do well in the playoffs. He's one of those guys that can manufacture a shot. He can shoot in heavy traffic and he'll hit big shots on you. He's also a pretty good defender. Aaron McKie is just a good basketball player and he can hurt you. He hit some big shots on us last year in the playoffs. So I don't think it's any secret that they desperately need him. They need that scoring.
As far as our offense is concerned, a big part of it is posting up Jalen, and he's hit some big shots down there. But the teams that really do a good job double-teaming him will come from the help side and he has to be careful. When he sees that double coming, he's got to get the ball out of there in a hurry, and not clear across court. That's where they play the passing lanes, and that's where they'll try to make the steals. In playoff situations, you don't want to turn the ball over a lot. So Jalen should hit the first guy open out there on the strong side. Then that guy will be in better position to see the floor.
We also need big ballgames out of Jermaine(O'Neal). He's a major part of this ballclub. We need a lot of rebounds, we need him to hit shots, we need blocked shots, we need his game. We need big ballgames out of Al (Harrington). We may need a big ballgame out of Derrick McKey. When you're in a playoff situation, everybody's got to come up with a ballgame.
Overall, for us to win the series, I think we've got to do a good job rebounding. I think that may be the key. We've got to hit shots, offensively. There's no question about that. And we've got to have good ball movement. Our offense gets us good shots. But the two keys - and it always goes back to this - are rebounding and the overall defense. However the coaches design the defense, guys have got to react to it. The help side has to be there. They've got to be there. Everybody's got to do their job.
And one thing's for sure: we aren't going to sneak up on them. There's no question they want to beat the Pacers. I mean, we blitzed 'em one time (a sweep in '99) and we beat 'em 4-2 last year. So sure they want to beat us. But I don't think that plays into it because, really, this is a different Pacer ballclub than they faced before. They're going to come after us, there's no question about that. But I don't think the fact we beat 'em the last two years is going to have anything to do with what happens now. This is a different ballclub and we've got to go out and establish ourselves.