Lakers don't expect love in brotherly Philadelphia

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- The NBA Finals have moved a long way from Los Angeles to a city where fans are obnoxious, not pretentious, a city where it's considered appropriate to boo your own grandmother if she forgets to call you on your birthday.

It's a city where they once booed Santa Claus, a city where fans came up to Milwaukee coach George Karl in the lobby of his hotel last week and heckled him and his players right to their faces.

''I think it's been misnamed. It was called the 'City of Brotherly Love,' wasn't it? I haven't felt a lot of that love from Philadelphia over the last few years,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ''We'll see what it's like.

"I'm expecting a great reception when I get there -- warm, brotherly, affectionate.''

The Finals are tied at one game apiece after the Lakers defeated the 76ers 98-89 Friday night.

Both teams spent Saturday traveling across the country and getting some rest before the series resumes Sunday with Game 3 at 3:30 p.m. ADT.

''I think both games have been phenomenal games for our league, and I'm just proud of our team making this a competitive series right now,'' 76ers coach Larry Brown said.

No two NBA cities could be much more dissimilar than Los Angeles and Philadelphia, a continent apart and a world away from each other.

While the Lakers give the best seat in the house to Jack Nicholson, the 76ers prefer to usher the big shots to luxury boxes and save the best seats for their most loyal regulars. Even Bill Cosby, their most famous fan, sits on the baseline instead of at midcourt.

Los Angeles has the gorgeous and famous Laker Girls; Philadelphia has, for some unknown reason, a rabbit mascot named Hip-Hop with a dwarf sidekick known as Lil' G.

In L.A., they call it smog. In Philly, they call it pollution.

In Los Angeles, they burn cars when they win championships. In Philadelphia, they only burn cars on days that end in the letter ''y'' -- and then they leave the carcass out in public view for the next several months.

Philadelphia even has one of the world's most luxurious passenger ships, the S.S. United States, berthed in Pier 82 of the harbor where it rusts and rots.

One city hosted last year's Republican National Convention. The other played host to the Democrats.

Last we checked, those two parties recently had a closely contested contest, too. Believe it went into overtime.

''We've played in worse places -- in Portland, Sacramento,'' Lakers forward Rick Fox said. ''We're the team that now has to prove we can play on the road.''

The Lakers made their most recent trip to Philadelphia in mid-February following the All-Star break and lost by 15 points, 112-97, after playing an overtime game against New Jersey the previous night.

It was the third of four East Coast road trips the Lakers made during the regular season, and it came at the peak of their disharmony and dysfunction.

Much has changed in the four months since then, not the least of which is Philadelphia's addition of Dikembe Mutombo.

The last time the Lakers were in town to play the Sixers, the primary defender on Shaquille O'Neal was the long-departed Nazr Mohammed.

''They have to feel comfortable going home and having the opportunity to close the series out,'' Jackson said. ''That's the mental thought they have to go through.''

Since the NBA switched to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, no team has ever swept the middle three games at home.

The Lakers spent a week in Indianapolis at this time last year, losing twice and winning once in overtime as O'Neal complained about the cramped quarters in his hotel room. They then finished off the Pacers in Game 6 at the Staples Center.

In order to win a second straight title, they will need to play the same kind of game they did Friday night and get big numbers from O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and a third player. In Game 2, that third threat was Derek Fisher.

Fisher clung to Allen Iverson's jersey like lint throughout Game 2, often grabbing him and entangling his arms with Iverson's in an effort to slow down and frustrate Philadelphia's best player.

That frustration was evident in the second minute of Game 2, when Iverson jabbed an elbow at Fisher a step or two past midcourt and was hit with an offensive foul.

Iverson continued to complain that Fisher was getting away with too much clutching and grabbing, and NBC's microphones picked up referee Steve Javie telling Iverson he can't spend the game whining.

Iverson eventually picked up a technical foul from Javie after complaining that he was fouled on the final shot of the third quarter, a 3-point attempt that missed the rim by several feet.

''That ball went dead right. Then we saw the replay. Allen doesn't miss dead right that often, and it bothers me that he didn't get respect,'' Brown said.

Iverson shot only four free throws, all in the fourth quarter, and missed them all. As a team, the 76ers shot just 6-for-16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and failed to come back from a 13-point deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes.

''Am I disappointed? Yep. You could say that,'' Iverson said. ''I felt like we're supposed to be going back 2-0.''

The winner of Game 3 will seize the momentum and hang onto it a little longer because there will be two days off before Game 4 Wednesday.

Game 5 is Friday night, by which time O'Neal will have had a chance to view the Liberty Bell, Jackson will have had a chance to tour Independence Hall and Bryant will have been able to return to his old stomping grounds in Lower Merion.

Then, barring a three-game sweep by either of the teams, the series will return to Los Angeles, where the LAPD has vowed not to allow a repeat of last June's post-championship rampage. They promise to be as tough as Philly cops.

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