Mar 31, 2010, 10:10 AM EST
Just a low-scoring time of the year, I guess. Nobody could ever fault the turn-of-the-century Sixers for being too run-and-gun in their methodology–only one player on the '02 Liberty Ballers even broke the millennium mark in points for the season, though that one player was NBA scoring leader Allen Iverson. Rather, those teams were more of a grind-it-out, defensive-oriented mindset, which resulted in a fair amount of wins, but also in a fair amount of gruesome pitchers' duels that just were none too pretty.
Such a contest was played on March 31st, 2002, when the Sixers welcomed an old foe back to town in the Toronto Raptors. The Sixers had dispatched the Raptors in an exceedingly tight seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals the previous year, with Iverson and Raptors superstar Vince Carter trading off 50-point games in one of the great scorer-on-scorer duels in recent playoff history. But here was the catch with this rematch–neither Iverson or Carter suited up for the game, leaving both clubs without their offensive focal point.
So what happens when two defensively-built clubs lose their only offensive firepower? Well, your teams score a combined 142 points and shoot an average of 39% from the field. No player on either side scored more than 16 points, and seven players racked up four or more fouls. The Raptors squeaked in two points' more worth of offense than the Sixers, and were able to escape with the 72-70 victory, dropping the reigning Eastern Conference champs to seventh in the standings. "Those guys woke up and decided they wanted to play," said guard Aaron McKie. "We laid down." A month later, Philly and Toronto would end disappointing seasons by
bowing out of the playoffs in the first round of action.
By the way, you're not seeing things in that above picture–that is indeed a photograph of eventual hall-of-famer Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon, playing in his one and only season as a Toronto Raptor. The Rockets legend came off the bench (behind Eric Montross, insultingly enough) in the game and scored nine points on 4-8 shooting, as well as grabbing five boards in 17 minutes of action.
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