PHILADELPHIA, June 15 (AP) --
Nobody's perfect, not even the Los Angeles Lakers. They sure came close, though.
The winningest postseason run in NBA history came to a conclusion Friday night. The Lakers, looking as dominant and unbeatable as they had for nearly three months, finished off the Philadelphia 76ers 108-96 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals for their second straight title.
| Shaq celebrates the Lakers' back-to-back championship wins.|
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The record books will now read:
Best single-season playoff winning percentage: 2000-01 Lakers, .938 (15-1).
"The last 15-20 games, we just became a great team," Shaquille O'Neal
) did a great job keeping everybody involved and everybody just shot the ball well. We played with a hunger."
They also played with a dominance that was on display throughout the Western Conference playoffs and reappeared in the final two games against the 76ers.
In the clinching game, it wasn't just O'Neal (29 points and 13 rebounds) and Bryant (26 points, 12 rebounds six assists) lifting the team. Derek Fisher
made six three-pointers and scored 18 points.
scored 20, the final three coming when he threw an alley-oop pass to O'Neal just before the final buzzer that went straight in the basket. It was an unintentional three-pointer that said it all: These Los Angeles Lakers were so great that everything fell their way in the end.
"I wanted the ball," Fox said. "I started to cradle it and (referee) Joey Crawford turned to me and said you've got to shoot it. So I threw it to Shaq and it happened to go in."
The victory ended a dramatic turnaround for a Lakers team plagued by an internal feud earlier this season. They became the first team to go through the playoffs undefeated on the road and won 23 of their final 24 games.
Fisher was clutch from
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The final three-pointer was one of 12 the Lakers made in a clincher that would have turned into a blowout if not for the determination of the 76ers.
Making one of their patented fourth-quarter comebacks, Philadelphia cut a 19-point deficit to seven with 1:13 left. But
Fisher, as so many Lakers role players had done throughout the series, hit a three-pointer to end the 76ers' hopes.
left the game for good with 40.3 seconds left, getting a standing ovation and hearing chants of "M-V-P" from the fans who had hoped for the Sixers' first title in almost two decades.
Iverson scored 37 points and Tyrone Hill
added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Dikembe Mutombo
had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Eric Snow
posted 13 points and 12 assists.
The fans defiantly chanted "Let's Go Sixers" as the Lakers left the court to safely receive their championship trophy
somewhere other than at center court.
Bryant jumped around exuberantly after the final buzzer, cradling the game ball while extending his other arm high in the
air. O'Neal was expressionless as he walked down the court before ending up in the arms of rookie Mark Madsen
, while Bryant and Fox found Sixers coach Larry Brown and hugged him.
"This time is fun," O'Neal said. "The first championship was just to get the monkey off my back. The rest are to stamp myself in history."
Iverson, who picked up three personal fouls and a technical foul in the first quarter, finished with 37 points on 14-for-32 shooting. He left the First Union Center without commenting after Bryant jumped ahead of him in the interview room.
The series ended somewhat anticlimactically, given the way it began. The heavy underdog Sixers surprised the Lakers and the basketball world by winning Game 1 in overtime, but Los Angeles regained the momentum by holding off the Sixers in Games 2 and 3 and then winning Game 4 decisively.
The 76ers played a gritty, determined Game 5, but didn't have enough offense to keep up with a team that methodically answered every run they made.
Coach Phil Jackson won his eighth title, one short of the NBA record for coaches held by Red Auerbach. Jackson has won his last 20 playoff series, also a record.
"This is surreal," he said.
Iverson hit four of his first five shots as the 76ers opened a 16-10 lead before Fox tied it with back-to-back three-pointers. Philadelphia took a 27-24 lead into the second quarter, but the Lakers quickly caught up when Iverson went scoreless for more than six minutes.
O'Neal converted an alley-oop dunk from Fox after a turnover by Iverson, making it 46-38, and Bryant finally made his first basket after an 0-for-5 start on a three-pointer that made it 49-40.
Iverson, playing with a bruise on his right side, scored the next six points and the Sixers cut their deficit to four by
halftime. But Fisher hit a three-pointer early in the third and Bryant made consecutive shots to give the Lakers their first 10-point lead, 59-49.
From there, the Sixers kept trying to rally and the Lakers stopped them cold each time.
When the 76ers committed sucessive turnovers and Bryant hit Robert Horry
for an alley-oop layup with 10:44 left, it increased the lead to 19.
Rather than quit, the 76ers put together one last rally to try to make a game of it.
Snow made one of two free throws with 1:14 left to make it a 100-93 after O'Neal was called for two three-second violations. But Fisher ended all doubt by making a three-pointer from three feet behind the arc with 51 seconds left for a 103-93 lead.
The 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 12-1 in the playoffs, held the previous record for best winning percentage (.923). ... George Lynch
, who didn't score in Game 4 as he made his return from a broken foot, sprained his toe in the second quarter and did not return.