PHILADELPHIA, May 22 (AP)
-- Allen Iverson
stood at the three-point line, looked Ray Allen
squarely in the face and noticed him lean back ever so slightly on his heels.
Jason Caffey and Tyrone Hill battle for position Tuesday.|
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Using that split-second to make the biggest decision of the game, Iverson promptly hoisted a 3-pointer with 1:10 left that hit nothing but net.
The shot gave Philadelphia a seven-point lead that the Bucks couldn't recover from as the 76ers held off Milwaukee 93-85 Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"I was struggling, and I don't think if I was hitting he would have backed off me like that," said Iverson, who scored 34 points on 13-for-35 shooting. "But he picked his poison and I hit that shot."
The basket gave the Sixers a 90-83 lead after they had let a 16-point advantage dwindle to two, and they went on to retain the homecourt advantage -- unlike what they did in their first two series of this postseason when they lost Game 1s to Indiana and Toronto.
Iverson scored 16 points in the second quarter despite a bruised hip and buttocks that slowed him early and contributed to him missing his first nine shots. Aaron McKie
added 23 points and Dikembe Mutombo
had 15 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, giving the Sixers a "Big Three" of their own that could more than stand up to Milwaukee's Allen, Glenn Robinson
and Sam Cassell
Allen finished with 31 points for the Bucks and Cassell had 20, but Robinson struggled through a 1-for-10 first half and finished with 15.
The Sixers controlled the boards, played more intense defense and held Milwaukee more than 14 points below its playoff average.
The series resumes Thursday night with Game 2.
"We can't play any worse. We didn't do anything we wanted to," Cassell said.
The 76ers scored 38 points in the paint, including 22 in the second quarter when they outscored Milwaukee 32-16 to take control of the game. The Sixers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and came up with nine steals.
The Bucks had to have an inkling that it wasn't going to be their night when the first quarter ended in a 19-19 tie despite Iverson's 0-for-9 shooting, which included a missed layup and an airball just before the buzzer.
"The worst thing we did was when we stopped (Iverson) from scoring, their other guys made shots. That got their confidence going and they played well as a team," Allen said.
McKie had a steal and dunk for a 34-29 lead, and Iverson ripped some padding out from under the back of his waistband and tossed it aside as the teams came out of a timeout early in the second quarter.
"I was just out there hurting," Iverson said. "I told (coach Larry Brown
) that it was worse than the last time when I missed five games."
Iverson proceeded to hit his next four shots as the 76ers closed the first half with a 26-10 run -- including the final 10 points of the quarter -- for a 51-35 lead.
Milwaukee pulled within 10 early in the third before Iverson discovered another burst of energy, racing in for a fast-break layup off a steal by McKie. Cassell drew a technical foul for arguing that a foul should have been called, and Iverson made the free throw and then hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-43.
The Bucks responded with a 12-0 run as Allen repeatedly found enough space to get off his jumper, but they only pulled within four, 59-55, before Iverson ended the run with a mid-range jumper.
Philadelphia led 70-63 entering the fourth, and the lead grew to 12 before Allen re-entered the game after sitting out the first four minutes of the quarter. Allen hit his first shot and completed a three-point play, and his 3-pointer off an offensive rebound made it 85-80 with 2:38 left. Eric Snow
missed a jumper and Cassell hit three free throws to make it 85-83 with 1:59 left, but Iverson drove the lane and was fouled. He made both free throws after Ervin Johnson
was called for a lane violation, and Robinson missed a shot over McKie before Iverson hit his clutch 3-pointer with 1:10 left.
"I played bad defense on that one," Allen said. "I wanted to make him drive and kind of close him out, but I jumped back a little bit."
That was all the room Iverson needed to bury the Bucks. Notes: Matt Geiger
, who sat out the final six games of the second-round series against Toronto because of soreness in his knee and leg, played 12 minutes and had two points and four rebounds. ... Tim Thomas
(nine points) was the only Milwaukee reserve to score. ... Jumaine Jones
played excellent defense on Robinson in the first half, contributing to Robinson's 1-for-10 start. ... The Bucks have never won an Eastern Conference title. They went to the NBA Finals in 1971 and 1974 as Western Conference champions.