On this day in history, June 3rd of 2001, Allen Iverson (44pts) and the 76ers eliminated Ray Allen and the Bucks in GM7 of one of the most controversial playoff series of all-time. A series many claim was rigged.
The conspiracy theory that Ray Allen and Coach George Karl believed in was the NBA and NBC did not want a “small market” team like the Bucks to face off against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
“It behooves everybody for the league to make more money, and the league knows that Philadelphia is going to make more money with L.A. than we would with L.A.” said an angry Ray Allen after a controversial GM5 loss in the series.
If crooked NBA playoff series were heavyweight boxers, then the 2002 Western finals (Lakers-Kings) was George Foreman and the 2001 Eastern finals (Bucks-Sixers) was Earnie Shavers. Translation: People remember only George, but Earnie was almost as memorable. To briefly recap, Philly’s wins in Games 1 and 4 swung on a controversial lane violation and two egregious no-calls. The Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Glenn Robinson, one of Milwaukee’s top-two scorers, didn’t even attempt a free throw until Game 5. Bucks coach George Karl and star Ray Allen were fined a combined $85,000 after the series for claiming the NBA rigged it. In that game, Milwaukee’s best big man, Scott Williams, was charged with a flagrant foul but not thrown out, only to be suspended, improbably, for Game 7.
The defining game: When Philly stole a must-win Game 4 in Milwaukee despite an atrocious performance from Iverson (10-for-32 shooting), helped by a 2-to-1 free-throw advantage and a host of late calls. How one-sided was it? When an official called a harmless touch foul to send Sam Cassell to the line with two seconds left and the Bucks trailing by seven (maybe the all-time we-need-to-pad-the-free-throw-stats-so-they-don’t-seem-so-lopsided-afterward call), the subsequent sarcastic standing ovation nearly morphed into the first-ever sarcastic riot. And this was Milwaukee, the most easygoing city in the country! Nobody remembers this. The real loser was Allen, who exploded for 190 points in the series, including a record nine three pointers in do-or-die Game 6. Nobody remembers this, either. Even I didn’t remember it. Crap.
What I remember, as a Lakers fan, is how crappy I felt when the 76ers prevented the Lakers from sweeping the entire playoffs by winning GM1 of the Finals. After the game, the Answer had Philly fans questioning if the Lakers would be able to repeat as Champions but even with Mutombo on their roster, Philly had no answer for Shaq and lost the next 4.
Now, I don’t think the Bucks would have been able to beat LA, but as Simmons noted in his post, the Bucks did sweep the top 4 teams in the Western conference that season, including the Lakers, and LA didn’t have an answer for the trio of Sam, Jesus and Big Dog. Oh well, I guess we will never know how that series would have played out…thanks to NBA and NBC.
I’m kidding about my support of the conspiracy because what most people don’t know is the NBA, in general, rather have more games in a series than more popular teams in a shorter series. So if the “small market” Bucks would have played LA and took them to 7 then David Stern would have been a lot happier with that than Philly taking LA to 5.