Published on Jun 9, 2012
To chants of "Beat L.A.," Allen Iverson cupped his hand to his ear and danced around the court, skipping like a little kid before jumping into the arms of the coach he finally learned to respect.
There were still 42 seconds remaining in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but it was all over by then. The Philadelphia 76ers knew they were going to the NBA Finals and the celebrating had already began.
Iverson showed why he is the MVP and Dikembe Mutombo showed why the 76ers traded for him, combining to lead Philadelphia past the Milwaukee Bucks 108-91 Sunday night as the 76ers made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in 18 years.
"We just kept fighting, and we had a great leader to listen to," Iverson said of coach Larry Brown. "He led us all the way."
Iverson had his best all-around game of the series with 44 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He shot 17-for-33, making more than half his shots for the first time since Game 6 of the second round.
Mutombo, acquired in a risky trade with Atlanta in February that the 76ers hoped would propel them to the Finals, was dominant, too, with 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks.
"It doesn't get much better than this when you consider what this team has been through, and to have Allen play like he did and Dikembe come over here. ... I'm just so proud," Brown said. "This team has great heart and character, just like this city."
The 76ers took control of the game late in the third quarter after Milwaukee's best player, Ray Allen, went down with a knee injury. The Bucks trailed by six when Allen left and by 12 when he returned, and they never made a run in the fourth quarter.
The final minutes turned into a lovefest between the Sixers and their ecstatic fans who had been waiting since 1983 for another trip to the Finals.
The "Beat L.A." chant started with just under three minutes left, and the fans were on their feet screaming the rest of the way.
"I can't even put it into words. Best feeling I ever had," 76ers guard Aaron McKie said. "I always dreamed about playing the Lakers in the Finals."
The Finals will begin Wednesday night at Los Angeles, where the Lakers will have been waiting 10 days since their last game. The Lakers, who have yet to lose this postseason, were established as 11-point favorites in the opener.
Iverson and Mutombo were the main reasons why Philadelphia dominated the final game, but they weren't the only ones.
McKie had 10 points and a career-high 13 assists, and little-known Raja Bell -- a rookie who signed a 10-day contract with the 76ers on April 6 -- scored 10 points in the second quarter when Philadelphia took the lead for good, going on a 21-6 run after he entered the game.
"The whole game changed when Raja Bell came in," Iverson said. "I asked Coach where did he get him from, and Coach just pounded on his heart."
The 76ers did all the little things -- deflecting balls, creating turnovers, grabbing offensive rebounds -- that Milwaukee didn't while playing with a confidence and composure that the Bucks will have all summer to envy.
Philadelphia created 15 turnovers, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, scored 19 second-chance points and had 11 steals.
Milwaukee was led by Allen's 26 points, Glenn Robinson's 24 and Sam Cassell's 20.
"They were the No. 1 seed and we were No. 2. No. 1 got the victory, but we're not holding our heads down," Cassell said.
Iverson scored Philadelphia's first six points of the third quarter and the Sixers were ahead 68-61 when Allen was called for an offensive foul as he tried to drive around Eric Snow. The two banged knees on the play, and Allen stayed down for two minutes before walking off gingerly. As the Bucks came out of a timeout, Allen was helped to the locker room.
Allen returned to the bench late in the third quarter -- just in time to see Iverson step back and nail a three-pointer at the buzzer for an 82-71 lead.
Allen then reported to the scorer's table 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, giving him a perfect view from behind Iverson as the MVP launched another three-pointer from nearly the identical spot that swished through for an 85-71 lead.
That was pretty much the end of things.
"We've talked all series about his ability to explode," Bucks coach George Karl said. "He proved himself to be a great player tonight. He moved himself to a standard that very few players get to."