LOS ANGELES -- There won't be a sweep in the NBA Finals unless it's the 76ers - not the Lakers - who can pull one off.
In a thrilling opener to the championship round, Allen Iverson had a mesmerizing first half, a poor second half and a clutch overtime, scoring 48 points to lead Philadelphia to a 107-101 victory Wednesday night.
Iverson scored seven straight points after the clock ticked inside two minutes to give Philadelphia a lead it never relinquished. The 76ers ended the Lakers' 19-game winning streak, giving them their first loss in 67 days.
"We knew we could win before we came here, with everybody counting us out," Iverson said. "They thought we would get swept and that is like a slap in the face."
Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal both had 41 points at the end of the fourth quarter, but Iverson scored only three over the final 19 minutes of regulation as he was hounded defensively by speedy Lakers reserve Tyronn Lue.
O'Neal hit a jump hook for the first points of the overtime, Kobe Bryant spun around Eric Snow for a layup and O'Neal hit one of two from the line for a five-point lead with three minutes left.
Raja Bell flung up an underhanded shot with his left hand that fell through, and Iverson hit two foul shots to get the 76ers within 99-98 with 1:46 left.
Lue then missed a drive and Iverson beat him downcourt and hit a wide-open 3-pointer. After a turnover by Rick Fox, Iverson buried a corner jumper over Lue for a 103-99 lead.
Bryant answered with a jumper, but Snow hit a runner from the lane with 10.5 seconds left for a four-point lead that all but ended the game - along with all the talk about how the Lakers would sweep the 76ers and become the first team to go undefeated through the postseason.
"That's the way we are. We play hard," Iverson said. "We came in here expecting to win. We know we can win. Everybody's been counting us out."
O'Neal finished with 44 points and 20 rebounds, but Bryant scored just 15 points on 7-for-22 shooting.
"I don't think Kobe Bryant had a Kobe kind of day and he will play better Friday," Snow said. "In OT, we came out slow but gathered the troops, Allen hit a big shot and we got some stops."
Game 2 is Friday night.
Iverson had his third consecutive 40-point game, and Snow and Dikembe Mutombo added 13 points each.
Fifteen minutes before tipoff, the crowd at Staples Center began chanting, "SWEEP! SWEEP!"
But when Iverson started hitting from all over, the chorus turned to "OOH" and "AAH."
Iverson scored 30 points in the first half as the 76ers came back from an early 13-point deficit, and he opened the second half with a jumper that hit nothing but net and brought more howls of astonishment from the celebrity-studded crowd.
Midway through the third quarter, Iverson came up with a steal, raced ahead of O'Neal and braced himself for a 350-pound impact as he went up for a layup. O'Neal, however, barely even swiped at the ball. The layup gave Philadelphia a 68-56 lead, and a three-point play by Snow put the Sixers ahead 73-58 with 5:23 left in the third.
That's when the Lakers started to show some resiliency of their own.
O'Neal scored the Lakers' next 12 points, dominating Matt Geiger and Todd MacCulloch as 76ers coach Larry Brown gave Mutombo (who had three fouls) an extended rest - the final 6:18 of the quarter. Brown picked up a technical foul with 55 seconds left in the quarter, and the Lakers were able to cut their deficit to 79-77 entering the fourth.
Mutombo made a hook shot with 8:41 left for an 88-81 lead before Lue - perhaps the only player in the NBA quicker than Iverson - came up with two steals and a 3-pointer that got the crowd on its feet.
Mutombo went to the bench with his fifth foul with 5:30 left, and Geiger fouled out a minute later while trying to box out O'Neal. The big fella had a chance to tie the game at 92-all but missed both free throws, but Bryant hit a jumper with 3 1/2 minutes left to even the score.
O'Neal dunked off a pass from Bryant to give the Lakers a 94-92 lead, but Snow answered with a runner with 1:19 left. Philadelphia missed its next two shots but grabbed offensive rebounds both times.
Mutombo missed two foul shots with 34 seconds left - the Sixers had been 19-for-19 until then, and Bryant lost the ball out of bounds with 18.9 seconds left. That gave the Sixers the last shot of regulation, but Iverson couldn't free himself of Lue and Snow missed a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Lakers were worried about being rusty, but that was not the case in the early going. After Iverson gave the Sixers a 5-2 lead, the Lakers ran off 16 straight points to take an 18-5 lead.
Showing their refusal to quit, the Sixers kept coming. Iverson hit a corner jumper as the shot clock expired after having his shot blocked twice by Bryant, and Aaron McKie stripped Bryant of the ball on a crossover dribble and fed Iverson for a layup as Philadelphia closed the quarter with a 17-5 run to trail 23-22.
Iverson hit a jumper over Bryant to begin the second quarter, giving the Sixers the lead, and Geiger scored eight points in the quarter while also diving twice for loose balls.
That kind of scrappiness wasn't expected from Geiger, who was injured for most of Philadelphia's playoff run. But this was a night when many pre-finals expectations were proven false.
"There's no shame in being underdogs," Brown said before the game. "I don't think we're offended. Look what the Lakers have done."
Commissioner David Stern gave his finals prediction: "the referees are going to be great." ... This is the Lakers' 20th trip to the finals since they moved from Minneapolis. They are 9-11 in Game 1s. ... Geiger had scored a total of 12 points in his seven previous playoff games.