The Ghost of Allen Iverson can teach the Sixers a lesson

(JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
(JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers need to adjust to Boston’s speedy guards in Game 2.

In Game 1, sure there was rust on the Philadelphia 76ers‘ performance after a six-game layoff.  But there was also another factor that caught the Sixers off guard, pardon the pun, and tilted the advantage to the Celtics: Speed.  Boston’s guards, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, are faster and quicker than Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick.  And their speed killed the Sixers in Game 1.

That needs to change in Game 2.

I’ll give a memorable example in Sixers’ history that illustrates this point.  In the Philadelphia 76ers championship run of 2001 they faced a heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers team featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.  The 76ers featured Allen Iverson, who was lightning quick and way too fast for Kobe, or Derek Fisher, the Lakers other guard.

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In Game 1, in Los Angeles, Iverson was torching the Lakers, already scoring 38 points midway through the third quarter.  The Sixers were winning by 15 points in the third when Phil Jackson inserted little known and seldom used Tyronn Lue (yes, the Cavs Head Coach) in the game to chase Iverson all over the court.

Lue, although not nearly as talented as Iverson, had one thing in common with him: he was fast.  In fact, the Lakers had used Lue in practice to impersonate Iverson before the series.  Jackson’s adjustment worked.  With Lue shadowing him, Iverson scored only three points the rest of regulation as the Lakers mounted a furious comeback to push the game into overtime.

Lue bothered Iverson and made him work for every shot.  The Sixers ultimately won Game 1, 98-89 in Overtime, and the thing everyone remembers from that game is Iverson burying a corner jumper and stepping over Lue with indignation.  But more critical than that one play, Phil Jackson had found his antidote to the 76ers lightning-quick future Hall-of-Famer.

The Sixers didn’t win another game in the series.  Of course, the Lakers had Kobe and Shaq, but Tyronne Lue’s contribution, and Jackson’s adjustment shouldn’t be understated.  Whenever he wanted to slow down Iverson, he inserted Lue.

Interestingly, the Sixers victory in Game 1 seventeen years ago exposed a weakness in that Lakers dynasty.  That they were vulnerable to smaller guard play.  And someone noticed.  In 2004, the Detroit Pistons crushed the Lakers in The Finals 4-1.  Those Pistons were led by two fast guards, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton.  That Pistons team was coached by the same man who coached the 2001 Sixers, Larry Brown.

Adjustments are vital to survival in the playoffs.  I hope Brett Brown counters with a little more Justin Anderson, who annoyed Dwyane Wade into almost dislocating Anderson’s arm in the Miami series.  I’d also like to see Markelle Fultz be allowed to compete.  He has the quickness to stay with Boston’s guards on defense and blow past them on offense.  It’ll be interesting to watch.

Next: Fans learned firsthand that the Sixers-Celtics rivalry lives

And somewhere, you can bet Allen Iverson and Tyronn Lue will be watching too.