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No Spirit of 76ers for Lakers

Pro basketball: Iverson scores 40 and L.A. seems sluggish on second night of back-to-back games, 112-97.


PHILADELPHIA — The veins blew up on Allen Iverson's spindly arms. He actually scowled several times. He stuck out his tongue.

This was no game. Not for him. And not for the town that adores him.

First Stephon Marbury, then Iverson. The Lakers survived once, not twice.

Their legs were as heavy as their eyelids, and they did not come close to equaling what Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers brought and then wrought, a 112-97 victory Wednesday night at First Union Center. The 76ers were serious. The Lakers, ah, not so much.

"It happens," said Laker Coach Phil Jackson, who is in charge of such things, "because we weren't ready at the start of the game."

So maybe the hardest part won't be getting out of the West at all.

"It was a big game for them," Jackson said. "I haven't seen [76er Coach] Larry Brown that animated and out on the court in a long time. They obviously were keyed for this ballgame and we didn't match it."

The Lakers trudged away after Iverson scored 40 points, a night after Marbury scored 50. Kobe Bryant, gleefully derided in his hometown, had both men, contained neither, and eventually handed them both over to Tyronn Lue. Bryant took 13 shots, his fewest since he took 11 on Halloween night in Portland, scored 18 points and had six turnovers.

He insisted he was not exhausted, despite chasing Marbury and Iverson over and around screens for the better part of two games.

"He shouldn't be," Shaquille O'Neal said. "He's 22."

O'Neal scored 29 points and took 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. Recovering from a strained right arch, O'Neal left the game for good with 1:24 remaining, with the Lakers down by 18 points. Bryant, who has a sore right shoulder, played to the very end.

Though team doctors advised Jackson to ease him into extended playing time, O'Neal has averaged nearly 40 minutes in his first two games back. Though the Lakers had reduced the 76er lead to 10 with about six minutes left, the 76ers pushed it to 18 again two minutes later, and still O'Neal pounded up and down the court, chasing players from the end of Brown's bench.

"I'm fine with it," O'Neal said.

Asked why he kept O'Neal in the game, Jackson said, "I don't know. Good question."

Pressed further, he said, "You know, it was a situation, I thought he was our most effective scorer. He'd had a lot of rest early in the game, we got the game down to 12 points, I thought we'd see what we could ride it out with there at the end a little bit."

O'Neal kept plodding, but the Lakers could not summon the enthusiasm required to stay with Iverson, who had nine assists, or Eric Snow, who had nine points and seven assists. When they rotated to block Iverson's path to the basket, Iverson found Nazr Mohammed (12 points), Tyrone Hill (12 points) or George Lynch (11 points).

"There are no egos concerning who gets shots and who doesn't," Iverson said. "We are trying to win a championship."

Wonder why he brought that up?

Defensively, the 76ers doubled Bryant, whose dynamic knack for offense appeared lost in the vapor trails left by Marbury and Iverson.

"We didn't execute offensively like we normally do," Bryant said. "They did an excellent job on me defensively. I wasn't going to rush the shots."

Jackson's view wasn't as forgiving.

"It wasn't Kobe's best game, we'll just say that," he said. "They came at him with Iverson immediately to start the game. He wasn't ready. Iverson got 10 quick points or whatever in that first few minutes. We got on our heels. Kobe got a couple of fouls and we had to start moving different people in front of Iverson."

The people of Philadelphia appear to have turned on the local Bryant, perhaps because he could become Iverson's MVP competition, perhaps because the All-Star game MVP award was Bryant's before Marbury made a couple of threes, and probably because they're a grumpy bunch who have to live here.

They booed Bryant often, and teased him with chants of "Kohh-bee, Kohh-bee."

It meant nothing more to lose here, said Bryant, who left eight tickets, one for his high school coach and most of the others to family.

"I'm upset losing, period, I don't care where it is," Bryant said. "It's good to come and play at home, but I don't really care."

On the second of a six-game trip, the Lakers were without starting point guard Ron Harper, who had a swollen left knee. Brian Shaw started for the eighth time.

Back-to-back games are difficult on the Lakers, whose veterans play a lot of minutes. It didn't mean Harper was completely out of the game, however. He rode Iverson whenever he wandered too close to the Laker bench.

"Whatever," Iverson shouted back. "Whatever, girlfriend. Whatever, girlfriend."

On a similar subject, Vanessa Williams sat beneath the basket nearest the Laker bench, causing a fan to produce a sign that read, "Bring your game, not your wife." Rick Fox, who suffered from back spasms early in the day and whose start was a game-time decision, chuckled.



How the NBA champion Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the NBA's best record, compare:


LAKERS 76ERS .653 WIN PCT. .731 100.1 PPG 95.7 97.7 PPG ALLOWED 90.4 .465 FG PCT. .454 .440 FG PCT. ALLOWED .423 .346 3-PT. PCT. .329 44.2 REBOUNDS PG 44.3 22.5 ASSISTS PG 20.2 .663 FREE THROW PCT. .744 14.4 TURNOVERS PG 16.2





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