What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with NBA.com as we outline each team's Keys to Success.
MASTER KEY: Allen Iverson
does more than score, and he does that in bunches. Ivy's toughness and determination have driven Philly to new heights this season. As he goes, so go the Sixers. Plus, everyone on the court knows that when the game is on the line and the Sixers have the ball, "The Answer" is the answer. Gutsy clutch shooter is quick enough to get to the hole or give himself space to get his jump shot off -- whenever he wants.
The Sixers brought Dikembe Mutombo
from Atlanta to block shots and defend the paint, and that's what he's done since arriving in Philly, averaging 3.5 blocks per game since joining the East leaders.
KEY IN THE KEY:
Mutombo is certainly the team's top rebounder, but his supporting cast on the frontline -- Tyrone Hill
and George Lynch
-- average over 16 boards a game between them and play the gritty D down low that coach Larry Brown covets.
Point guard Eric Snow
does everything except light up the scoreboard. Naturally, that includes handing out more dimes than a cash register. Sure Iverson's quicker than mercury, but why do you think A.I. gets as many good looks as he does?
KEY (MCKIE) RESERVE:
KEY WIN, KEY VID: It wasn't exactly a Valentine's Day Massacre, but it was close. When the Sixers topped the Lakers 112-97 on Feb. 14, it sent a message to the league that this was one sweetheart of a club that was ready to take on the best the West had to offer.
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Whether it's manning the point, scoring in bunches, or playing staunch defense, super-sub Aaron McKie
brings it off the bench every night. Carried the club in Eric Snow's absence.
KEY LONG-RANGE GUNNER:
Iverson's three-point percentage might not reflect it, but nobody's better at dropping the game-breaking bomb than the Answer himself.
KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE:
Inside Joke: Allen Iverson will be all smiles if the Sixers can make it out of the East and into the Finals.
For a guy who breaks the 40-point barrier as often as N'Sync spits out another teenie-bopper anthem, scoring 29 points in a game is no big deal for Allen Iverson. What made this Dec. 27 win over the Warriors
a big deal, however, was that Iverson was playing with a dislocated shoulder suffered just five days earlier against the Knicks
. Iverson was supposed to sit, but played anyway, showing the toughness and desire that drove his club to the top spot in the East.
KEY AFTER THREE:
The Sixers are 41-3 when leading after three quarters. They are 6-18 when trailing entering the fourth quarter. The Sixers are 1-0 when tied at the end of three quarters.
Not necessarily known for his shooting touch, big man extraordinaire Dikembe Mutombo is a surprisingly capable free-throw shooter (78.9%).
Second-year guard Rodney Buford
might have been brought to Philly as an afterthought this year, but the athletic newbie has provided the team with gobs of athleticism and highlight-reel finishes. Plus, his versatility allows him to fill either of the guard spots when needed.
Allen Iverson's favorite actor is Samuel L. Jackson. The Sixers are hoping Iverson can make sure they don't get "The Shaft", avoid "The Phantom Menace" of early playoff exits, and lift that "Unbreakable" piece of hardware ... the NBA championship trophy.