SIXERS counting on Iverson in Game 7

Saturday, May 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Allen Iverson's dream season is coming down to one game.

Iverson won his second scoring title in three years, earned MVP honors in the All-Star game and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player, but his year will be a disappointment if the Philadelphia 76ers lose to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

``I'm not ready to go home yet,'' Iverson said.

Less than 48 hours after scoring 52 points in a 33-point rout, the Raptors finally found a way to shut down Iverson, beating the Sixers 101-89 to force Sunday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Toronto sent two defenders at Iverson as soon as he touched the ball Friday night, smothered him into a 6-for-24 shooting performance and held the star guard to a series-low 20 points.

Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said he plans to employ the same defensive strategy against Iverson on Sunday. If so, the Sixers must get contributions from other players.

``We can't all rely on Allen because we know they are going to double-team him,'' Rodney Buford said. ``We all have to step up, play hard and play with more intensity. Allen just wants to win. He'll do whatever it takes to win.''

This will be the Iverson's first Game 7. Philadelphia is 2-2 in elimination games the last two years. The Raptors are 3-0 when facing extinction this season.

``This is an important game in his career,'' Sixers coach Larry Brown said after practice Saturday. ``This is the way you define great players, when they play in elimination games and they have to step up. It'll be fun to see how he responds.''

While most of the pressure appears to be on Iverson, Raptors star Vince Carter will have more eyes on him because he plans to attend graduation at the University of North Carolina on Sunday morning and then fly on a private plane to Philadelphia for the game.

``It's a difficult decision, but nevertheless it's made and it's over,'' Carter said Saturday.

Brown, a North Carolina alum, praised Carter for his accomplishment, but said he'd rather have him rested for the game.