Quickness Becomes Winning Formula

Red Auerbach used to hold intrasquad scrimmages with the big guys on one team and the small guys on the other.

The small guys always won.

Basketball is a game of quickness, and this victory by the Philadelphia 76ers underscored that truth. The momentum shifts went to the team that had the quickest players on the floor.

Philadelphia Coach Larry Brown made the last move in the chess match and it was brilliant. In overtime, he put four guards on the floor with Dikembe Mutombo, which enabled Allen Iverson to finally separate from his shadow of the previous 30 minutes, Laker guard Tyronn Lue.

In the second half, the Lakers took advantage of the 76ers having two non-ballhandlers on the floor. Robert Horry went to power forward, roamed the court and double-teamed on the perimeter, giving the 76ers no way to attack. The Lakers were the quicker team.

Lue came in when Iverson was tiring and did a terrific job. Neither Derek Fisher or Kobe Bryant could slow Iverson, who I believe still remembers a game two years ago when Bryant gained his defensive reputation by shutting down the 76er guard.

Iverson was denied the ball by Lue, and when he did get it, Horry double-teamed him. There was no way for Iverson to get a shot and the Lakers took a five-point lead in overtime.

But when Brown brought in the four guards, the equation changed. He had the quickest team. Iverson scored seven in a row and the Lakers' 19-game winning streak was over.

Once the Lakers realized they were in the Finals rather than holding a victory parade, it turned into a phenomenal game.

It sounds crazy because Iverson scored 48 points and Shaquille O'Neal scored 44, but I thought both players were defended well. When Mutombo was in the game, O'Neal earned his points. Not only did Mutombo guard O'Neal one-on-one, but he was waiting at the basket for Bryant too.

The officials won't pick on Mutombo and call cheap fouls. All he has to do is make O'Neal earn his points. He did that and then some.

Of course, when Mutombo was on the bench in foul trouble O'Neal attacked relentlessly, especially in the third quarter when the Lakers picked up their intensity for the first time.

The Laker layoff was definitely a factor. Game-like intensity can't be duplicated in practice. Bryant was out of sync and there were too many turnovers.

But don't write him off. That would be unwise.

The Lakers have a very quick team. When they combine either Fisher or Lue with Bryant, Horry and Rick Fox, that's a great combination of quickness and size. They don't have to change. The main thing is Bryant will have a better game.

I still think the Lakers will win the series, but they had better win Game 2.

The 76ers are like cockroaches after an atomic war. Everything else is dead and they crawl out of the rubble. They have as much fight as any team I can remember.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
71°