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Iverson ignores pressure

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson playfully revved the engine, sped around the court on a utility cart, stopped near an entrance tunnel and greeted the Los Angeles Lakers upon their arrival for practice.

If Iverson feels any pressure because the Philadelphia 76ers trail the Lakers 2-1 in the NBA Finals, the league's MVP didn't show any signs of it Tuesday.

''I hope everybody's confident. I am,'' Iverson said.

After concluding his interview in the press room, Iverson returned to the court, saw reporters gathered around teammate Aaron McKie, grabbed a microphone and jokingly asked questions until his arm tired of holding the mike.

Iverson then left the court and emerged driving a cart with his right hand while dribbling a basketball with his left. He maneuvered through a crowd of reporters and cameramen on his way out, came back for another spin minutes later and parked near a tunnel while the Lakers filtered off the team bus.

''We hoped he wouldn't crash out, man,'' Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. ''He was going pretty fast. He cut the corner going pretty fast.''

While Iverson showed he was loose on the eve of Game 4, Sixers coach Larry Brown was figuring out who will be available to play Wednesday night.

Small forward George Lynch, sidelined with a broken left foot since May 13, will be in uniform for the first time since Game 4 of the conference semifinals against Toronto. But Brown doesn't know how long he'll be able to go.

Lynch would back up Jumaine Jones at small forward and could see time at power forward in place of Tyrone Hill, who has been ineffective in this series.

''I'm dressing and hopefully he'll put me in,'' Lynch said. ''I'm hoping he won't have to put me in, that we're up 10 the whole game.''

The Lakers are looking to take away any hope the Sixers have left after three, grueling, down-to-the-wire finishes. A victory Wednesday practically clinches a second straight championship for Los Angeles.

A loss gives the Sixers all the momentum heading into Friday's Game 5.

''I think it's very pivotal,'' Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. ''They can either tie the series or we can go up 3-1. For both teams, it's a life or death situation.''

Philadelphia has been in this position in each of the last two series and responded by winning Game 4 on the road both times.

''There's a lot of pressure on us,'' said McKie, who needed intravenous fluids to combat fatigue the last two days. ''It's important we get this win because we know we're a good road team and we can win in their arena.''

The Lakers, however, haven't lost on the road in the postseason. At 6-0, Los Angeles is one victory shy of the record for consecutive road wins set by the Houston Rockets in 1995.

Also, the Lakers are 13-1 in the playoffs, and victories in the next two games would give them the best postseason winning percentage in NBA history. The 1982-83 76ers hold the record of .923 (12-1).

''I wouldn't put too much on that,'' forward Horace Grant said. ''We just want to win the game. We can't worry about being undefeated on the road. We just need to come out, stay focused, take care of this game and let history take care of itself.''

The Lakers, prohibitive favorites after sweeping through the playoffs, have had a tougher time than most expected against Philadelphia.

If the Sixers hadn't missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter of Game 2 or hadn't left Robert Horry open to nail a 3-pointer in the closing minute of Game 3, Los Angles could be facing a 2-1 or 3-0 hole.

''Whether you win by 20 or you win by one, you win,'' Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said. ''For example, if you had a Mercedes-Benz with the rims or without the rims, guess what? You still have a Benz. So it doesn't matter to me how we win as long as we get the job done.''

O'Neal's mood was much lighter Tuesday. He even joked about his battle with Dikembe Mutombo after accusing the defensive player of the year of flopping in Game 3.

''Dikembe is a great player and, of course, I respect his game,'' said O'Neal, who fouled out with 2:21 left Sunday night. ''You know, it's nothing but us trying to bring the ratings up higher. We're going to go out, he's a classy individual, I'm a classy individual. It'll be two warriors going at it.''

You can bet the smallest warrior of them all -- Iverson -- will keep his utility cart parked for this one.



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