Coleman saves 'Sixers from first-round sweep

Posted: Monday, April 29, 2002

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson was a franchise player on Sunday.

After being challenged by his coach to take responsibility for winning and losing, Iverson scored 42 points, including 11 of Philadelphia's last 15, as the 76ers avoided elimination with a 108-103 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Derrick Coleman got the go-ahead basket for the Sixers with 45.5 seconds left.

Game 4 of the best-of-five first-round series is Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Boston leads the defending Eastern Conference champions 2-1.

Only six teams in league history have come back to win a five-game series after losing the first two. Dallas did it against Utah last year.

Paul Pierce had 29 points for Boston and Antoine Walker added 27, including seven 3-pointers in the first half. Boston hit 15-of-30 from beyond the arc, but only 5-of-16 in the second half.

After missing 10 of his previous 12 shots, Iverson hit a short jumper to tie it at 100 with 1:48 left. But Rodney Rogers nailed a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 103-100 lead.

Two free throws by Iverson cut it to 103-102 and, after a three-second violation on Rogers, Coleman caught an air ball by Aaron McKie and made a reverse layup to give Philadelphia a 104-103 lead with 45.5 seconds left.

Pierce then missed a jumper, but the rebound bounced out of bounds off Eric Snow. Walker missed an open 3-pointer, but Iverson grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws for a 106-103 lead with 19.7 seconds left.

Coleman blocked a 3-pointer by Rogers and Pierce missed one in the final seconds, before Coleman got the rebound and sealed it with two free throws.

Snow, who was 4-of-25 in the first two games, had 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and Coleman had 18 points and nine rebounds. Iverson finished 10-of-23 from the field and 19-of-20 from the foul line.

Iverson, who missed the last 14 games of the regular-season because of a broken bone in his left hand, was 15-of-45 for 49 points in the first two games.

On Friday, Iverson, the leagues' reigning MVP, deflected blame for Philadelphia's two losses by saying he isn't a franchise player and shouldn't be singled out because he's just another player on the team.

Sixers coach Larry Brown responded by telling Iverson he should accept the responsibility, and Iverson assured him he wouldn't let the Sixers lose.

For a while, Walker had other plans. He was 7-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half, including a playoff-record six in the second quarter.

Boston, which trailed by 16 with 4:21 left in the second quarter, took its first lead, 62-60, on a 3-pointer by Pierce 2:10 into the third. A turnaround jumper by Tony Battie made it 74-68, giving the Celtics their biggest lead.

But a 12-2 run, capped by Iverson's 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, put Philadelphia ahead 80-76.

With only one starter -- Dikembe Mutombo-- on the floor early in the second for the Sixers, Boston went on a 10-3 run, closing within 33-31 on a 3-pointer by Walker.

But the Sixers scored 15 consecutive points after Iverson and Matt Harpring returned, taking a 46-31 lead. Iverson had six straight points during the run, which was capped by a three-point play by Harpring.

Walker ended the run with a 3-pointer, but Iverson answered with a 3 of his own.

Walker had five straight 3s over a seven-minute stretch of the second in which no other Celtic scored. His last 3 of the first half cut it to 55-52, but Snow hit one with 2.9 seconds left, giving the Sixers a 58-52 halftime lead.

Iverson and Snow, 19-of-70 combined in the first two games, scored Philadelphia's first 11 points and 17 of 19.

Entering the series, the Sixers wanted to take advantage of mismatches inside by getting the ball to Mutombo in the low post. But Mutombo wasn't an offensive factor in the first two games, didn't take his first shot until the second quarter in Game 3, didn't score until 4:45 remained in the first half and finished with three points.

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