Monday, 11 June 2007

2001 NBA Finals, Game 1

Over the weekend on ESPN Classic they showed some good NBA Finals games. There was some interesting stuff, so I put a few of them on the DVR to watch because I thought it would be interesting to see all of these guys when they were younger. Other games I taped include the 1998 Bulls vs. Jazz Game 6 (MJ's last shot for Chicago), and a couple of Rockets games so I could watch some tape of Olajuwon in his prime.

But the first game I watched was Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals between the LA Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, which the Sixers won 107-103 in OT. I figured I'd write about that game here because it was a lot more interesting than Game 2 of the 2007 NBA Finals, even if I did know what happened.

Also to note my biases, the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers might be my favorite team ever. I loved watching them play and that's a big reason I am a 76ers fan today. Some thoughts on the game:

- Here was the 76ers starting lineup: Allen Iverson, Aaron McKie, Jumaine Jones, Tyrone Hill, Dikembe Mutombo. Seriously, that was the starting lineup of an NBA Finals team (maybe why they lost 4-1). But that alone should give you an indication of just how great Allen Iverson was and is. Every night the defense had to know exactly who was getting the ball and who was getting the majority of the shots for Philly, and Iverson was still the MVP and led them to the Finals.

- By the way, Allen Iverson had 48 points in this game, including 7 in a row late in OT to clinch the game.

- Looking at the 76ers team, I got the feeling that this is the exact type of team that Kobe Bryant would like to play on today. Everyone was defensive minded and didn't care if they got shots... heck, Iverson shot 30+ times many times and everyone else just continued to play good defense and never force anything on offense.

- Watching Shaq play then, I don't think he gets enough credit for how athletic he is. People see him as the big, powerful guy on the post, and he is that, but in his prime he could get up and down the floor as well as any big man in the NBA. He was also a very solid passer and ballhandler.

- And for the record, Shaq had 44 points and 20 rebounds in this game against Dikembe Mutombo (more on him later). In that year's playoffs he averaged over 30 points and 15 rebounds per game. Wow.

- Interesting matchup of Raja Bell (who got his start in Philly) guarding Kobe Bryant whenever he was in the game. I forgot their history went back that far. And for the record, Bell did a very good job on Bryant even back then.

- About Dikembe Mutombo, there is no doubt that he was one of the most intimidating defenders at the rim ever. He was 35 years old at this time and past his prime, but one play stuck out to me. On one Lakers possession Horace Grant caught a pass and looked like he had an open layup. Instead, he paused, looked around for Mutombo (who was far under the hoop), but this pause was enough time for Mutombo to get over and block the shot. It was awesome.

- It was interesting watching Rick Fox play... he just seemed so very unathletic, but he was still a very effective player because he knew what his role was and he was always in the right position.

- Another reason I enjoyed this game... their was no flopping. That was refreshing.

- This has been said over and over, but the NBA on NBC was fantastic. Great music, great commentary (Marv Albert and Doug Collins), great camera work, great everything.

So the Lakers did go on to win the next 4 (and finish their 15-1 romp through the 2001 playoffs), but for one night at least Philly was king. What a game. If you're interested, the last minutes of it are on Youtube.

Do you remember this series at all?