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Sixers lose $50,000, gain victory over Pacers

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Philadel-phia's $50,000 fine may have been worth it.

With Indiana's Reggie Miller serving a one-game suspension for retaliating against Matt Geiger of the 76ers in the previous game, Allen Iverson scored 37 points and Philadelphia overwhelmed the poor-shooting and seemingly dazed Pacers 107-86 Monday night to pull within 3-2 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Now, with at least one more game, the 76ers still have a chance to become the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

''The pressure is kind of on those guys,'' Iverson said. ''Everybody expected they would beat us. When it comes down to talent in this league, we're not at the top ... but we have more heart than anybody else in the league.''

Game 6 will be in Philadelphia on Friday. A seventh and deciding game, if necessary, would be back in Indianapolis on Sunday.

''We really feel like we've got a shot,'' Iverson said. ''We're going to bring our 'A' game, and for them to get out of there with a win, they're definitely going to have to bring their 'A' game.''

The 76ers' first victory in the series was in Game 4 on Saturday, when Miller was twice knocked to the floor by Geiger, who was called for two flagrant fouls and drew a two-game suspension and $20,000 fine. Miller was suspended one game and fined $5,000 for retaliating after the second flagrant foul. But the NBA also fined the 76ers $50,000, and owner Pat Croce was so incensed he threatened to resign.

He later agreed to pay -- grudgingly -- but remained adamant the fine was unwarranted.

The 76ers took his frustration out on the Pacers from the beginning, hitting seven of their first eight shots for a 15-0 lead.

''You hope to get a good start, but there's no way in the world I imagined we'd get off to that lead,'' 76ers coach Larry Brown said. ''Allen had a great game, especially in the first three quarters.

''I know they lost a great player,'' he said of Miller's absence. ''You can't make up for somebody of his ability not playing, but all the conversation was they didn't need him, they would win without him, so it's just a tremendous effort on our part.''

Iverson hit his first three shots and had seven points during the early run. But without Miller's 25-point playoff average, the Pacers had virtually no scoring besides Rik Smits, who had 14 of his team-high 15 points in the first half.

Two baskets by Smits cut Philadelphia's lead to nine, then Smits blocked a shot by Toni Kukoc and Mark Jackson scored to pull Indiana within 19-12 in the closing minutes of the first quarter. The Pacers never got any closer.

''All I know is we need to regroup before we find ourselves fighting for our lives again,'' Pacers guard Mark Jackson said. ''But history tells me we're going to come out aggressive. For some reason, we're a better team when we're up 3-2 than when it's 3-1. Don't ask me why.''

A 10-2 Philadelphia run pushed the lead to 29-16 at the end of the first quarter, and the 76ers took control in the second period with a 14-2 streak, including two free throws by Iverson on technical fouls against Travis Best and Derrick McKey.

Philadelphia pushed the lead to as many as 25 points and led 60-37 at halftime, when the Pacers left the floor to a chorus of boos. Unlike Saturday, when the Pacers came back from 18 points down to lead by five before losing 92-90, they never made a serious charge in the second half.

Theo Ratliff added a career playoff-high 26 points and Kukoc and Aaron McKie had 13 apiece. McKie, playing in place of injured point guard Eric Snow, also had 10 rebounds and nine assists.

''We kept the crowd out of it. That's what killed us the first two games,'' McKie said. ''It's easier to get into your sets when you can communicate verbally.''

Indiana's Jalen Rose, averaging 21.4 points in the playoffs, missed his first six shots and finished 4-for-15 from the field with 13 points.

Rose's first basket came four minutes into the third quarter, with the 76ers ahead by 24. Philadelphia led 83-62 going into the final period, but baskets by Best and Austin Croshere, a fast-break layup and free throw by Rose and a 3-pointer by Croshere cut the lead to 85-72 with seven minutes to go.

McKie countered with a 3-pointer and the 76ers again pulled away in the closing minutes.

Without Miller, it was ''harder to get shot attempts. They were trying to make me pass the ball and they did a good job,'' Rose said. ''They got out so fast, jumped on us so early and attacked a lot of things we like to run.''

Pacers coach Larry Bird didn't blame the loss on Miller's absence.

''Reggie helped us with the first wins, but we had some breakdowns tonight. We came out and lost our confidence. It's easy to lay the blame on someone, but it was all of us.''

Notes: The Pacers swept the 76ers 4-0 in last year's conference semifinals. ... The Pacers are 11-5 this season when playing without one of their usual starters. Their last loss with a starter out was to Philadelphia in March, when Dale Davis was out with an injury. ... The losses Saturday and Monday night marked the first time this season -- after 20 straight payback victories -- that the Pacers lost two straight games to the same team. ... Philadelphia has 166 free throw attempts to Indiana's 106 in the first five games. ... Both Miller and Geiger participated in the teams' shootarounds Monday morning but were barred by NBA rules from being in Conseco Fieldhouse for the game. ... Chris Mullin, who started in place of Miller, had 13 points.



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