INDIANAPOLIS, May 2 (AP)
-- A tearful Allen Iverson
was as eager to pass the credit as the basketball.
| Reggie Miller looks to pass around Allen Iverson.|
| NBA.com TV highlights: 28.8+ |
The NBA's scoring leader had 33 points, but it took a blocked shot and basket by Dikembe Mutombo
and a big rebound and two free throws by Aaron McKie
to give the Philadelphia 76ers an 88-85 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Then after a post-game hug from Reggie Miller
, Iverson broke down.
"Those were tears of joy," he said.
"I'm exhausted physically and mentally, because they brought out a lot in Allen Iverson," he said. "It's been rough on me mentally. We could never get past these guys (in the playoffs)."
Philadelphia, which lost to Indiana in the playoffs each of the past two years, this time won the first-round Eastern Conference series 3-1 and advanced to the conference semifinals against the winner of the New York-Toronto series, which is tied 2-2.
"I'm proud to be in the foxhole with these guys," Iverson said of his teammates. "I always see those same faces. They never give up. They never stop playing."
A 3-point basket by Travis Best
gave Indiana an 85-82 lead with just over two minutes to go, but McKie pulled the 76ers within one. Then Mutombo blocked a shot by Derrick McKey
and scored on a hook shot with 1:09 remaining.
After an exchange of possessions with no scoring, Reggie Miller missed a 3-pointer and McKie pulled down the rebound with 5.8 seconds to go. He was immediately fouled and hit both free throws. Jalen Rose
then missed a 3-pointer for Indiana as the game ended.
"The only way we win this game is with great defense," said Mutombo, who came to Philly in a six-player trade with Atlanta in February.
"I knew time was running out. I didn't have a choice," Mutombo said of his go-ahead basket. "I took a great hook and it went in. There's nothing more you can ask. I never thought this year was going to end up the way it has. I was able to be part of a team that won the division, the conference. Now we're trying to win everything."
Miller, who embraced Iverson and then Sixers coach Larry Brown
before walking off the court, had 32 points for Indiana. Rose finished with 18.
"I told Allen afterward he has to make them believe they can win it all," Miller said. "This is their first step. I definitely see them coming out of the East. ... We put them through enough wars, I think they've pretty much seen everything."
Rose said the last play was designed to go to Miller for a tying 3-pointer.
"They defended him, so I put up the shot," Rose said. "It wasn't my best shot. I feel a responsibility. I had a mediocre series when my team needed a phenomenal series. They were the better team and they played like it."
The Pacers had complained the 76ers and Iverson were getting favorable treatment from the officials earlier in the series, and Philadelphia hit 24-of-29 free throws to just 9-of-10 for Indiana.
Despite the discrepancy in fouls, the Pacers led most of the game and had a 76-68 lead early in the final period after two straight baskets by Austin Croshere
The 76ers tied it at 80 on a basket by Tyrone Hill
and went ahead 82-80 on a basket by Eric Snow
Miller tied the game at 82 before Best's basket gave the Pacers their final lead.
Best finished with only seven points but had 12 assists. Jermaine O'Neal
, scoreless in a Game 3 loss on Saturday, had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Pacers.
Mutombo added 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for Philadelphia.
The Pacers tried Rose, Best, even Miller on Iverson, who still managed 24 points in the first half. After an early nine-point Indiana lead, Jumaine Jones
hit a 3-pointer and Iverson scored the last four of the first quarter to pull the 76ers within 27-25.
Iverson then scored the first basket of the second period to tie the game for the first time.
A rebound tip by Matt Geiger gave Philadelphia its first lead, and the 76ers built it to 37-33 on a 3-pointer by Iverson midway through the period. The Sixers' final five points before the half came on free throws.
With Rose out of the game with his third foul -- and a technical for protesting -- Miller took over.
Miller hit a basket and then a free throw when Iverson received a technical for angrily complaining that Miller had traveled before the shot.
Iverson then was fouled and hit one of two free throws, but baskets by O'Neal and Miller put Indiana back in front. There was one more tie before the Pacers scored the final six points on four free throws by Miller and a slam dunk by Jeff Foster
for a 48-42 lead at the break.
Miller had 13 points in the third quarter, and the Pacers took a 69-64 lead into the final period. Notes:
McKie's 10 points gave him 69 for the series, or six more than all the Pacers' reserves in the four games. ... The Pacers, who opened the playoffs with a one-point victory in Philadelphia, had never before lost a series in which they won the first game. ... Sixers coach Larry Brown coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice, losing in seven games both to the Knicks in 1994 and Magic in 1995. ... Sam Perkins
, who did not play in Game 3, played five minutes in the fourth quarter. It was Perkins' 167th playoff game, second behind John Stockton
's record 172 for the most postseason appearances by a player who has never been on a championship team. ... O'Neal's one blocked shot gave him 10 for the series, or one more than his playoff total in his first four NBA seasons with Portland. ... Iverson's playoff streak of 22 straight games of double-figure scoring is Philadelphia's longest since Charles Barkley's team-record 41 games from 1985-91.