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How The 76ers Could Win

OK, we start by saying we know it is a long shot, right up there with Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson in 1990; Villanova and Georgetown in 1985; The U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and The Soviets In 1980; even Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. But it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that under the right circumstances, the 76ers could defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, which begin tonight.

The first thing that must happen is that Allen Iverson has to reach his scoring average of 30 points per night - every night. The 76ers can't afford the tailbone-damaged performance that Iverson put in against the Milwaukee Bucks. He has to be on every night in order to force the Lakers to play defense and to generate open shots for the other 76ers.

We don't agree with NY Post basketball columnist Peter Vecsey's opinion that the 76ers must take Game 1. We think that Philly must take Game 2. We think the Lakers will come out thoroughly motivated tonight and if they win it could contribute to the necessary overconfidence for a Game 2 Sixers victory. It is game 2, especially if they blow the 76ers out tonight, where the Lakers will be most vulnerable to an upset. But the bottom line is that the Sixers have to win one of the first two games if they are to win the series.

While we are under no illusions that Dikembe Mutombo is going to stop Shaq, or that Aaron McKie is going to stop Kobe, we do think that the 76ers can stop Derek Fisher. No one on earth can beat the Lakers when they have all three guys in a groove but it is possible to beat the Lakers if Shaq and Kobe are off and Rick Fox and company are throwing up bricks, which has happened several times this year.

Aaron McKie is going to have to return to the 20 point-efforts he was producing earlier in the playoffs. We have no faith in Mutombo's ability to continue the 20-point performances he had against the center-less Bucks. All we ask of Mutombo is 15 rebounds a night and 5 blocks - including a couple rejections of Kobe's efforts to sky through the lane. If McKie can put up 20 points a night, it means that Kobe, if he guards him, is going to have to work especially hard, every night - on both ends of the floor.

As far as guarding Shaq is concerned, we will need the three-headed monster, in the form of Mutombo, Todd MacCulloch, and yes...Matt Geiger, which causes us anxiety, like you wouldn't believe. Putting your hopes in the hands of Matt Geiger, who considers pro basketball a part-time job, is like waiting for 911 to come and save you in a Black neighborhood. But we will need the 12 fouls from Geiger and MacCulloch in order to wear Shaq down and keep Mutombo from fouling out. Of course, we like everyone else enjoy watching Shaq struggle at the foul line.

There is talk that Kobe may guard Iverson. We hope not. After seeing Kobe shut down Iverson in the past, we can't imagine the consequences of a subpar Iverson performance coupled with the other 76ers missing open shots, as has become their custom, in stretches. Sure, Kobe would be tired by the effort but this is championship basketball and the last thing the 76ers need is Kobe accepting this defensive challenge like Jordan did when he guarded Magic in the 1991 series.

The way the 76ers win the series is by taking one of the games in L.A., 2 in Philly and another when the Series heads back to L.A. - highly unlikely but we think the Lakers run as much on confidence as they do on talent. If Philly can break some of that by winning a game in L.A., the Lakers come back down to earth and the 76ers can certainly beat them twice at home. The team from P-H-I-L-L-Y is not the San Antonio Spurs who went out like straight cowards against the Lakers, in their series. They looked pathetic, especially after talking all of that junk.

So the keys to victory are: 1) win one of the initial games in L.A.2) Hack Shaq with MacCulloch and Geiger 3) Make Kobe shoot jump shots, as much as possible 4) Eric Snow makes his open shots 4) Iverson and Mutombo get to the free throw line and make 80% of their free throws 5) McKie averages 20 points during the series.

A longshot...but possible.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

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