LOS ANGELES -- Maybe Dikembe Mutombo didn't look like the defensive player of the year against Shaquille O'Neal, but the Philadelphia center was a key to the 76ers' win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Mutombo had 13 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots in Philadelphia's 107-101 overtime victory Wednesday night, while O'Neal had 44 points and 20 rebounds and no blocks for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mutombo came out after drawing his third foul midway through the third quarter, and O'Neal began pounding his way to the basket past backup center Matt Geiger.
O'Neal scored 15 points in the final 5:10 of the period as Los Angeles outscored the 76ers 19-6 to draw within two points by the end of the quarter.
"Nobody in the world can stop Shaquille O'Neal, but we've got a guy who can counter, try to contain him, and he was sitting on the bench. So Shaquille does what a Hall of Fame player would do, take advantage of it," said Allen Iverson, who scored seven of his 48 points in the overtime.
"We understood that all we had to do was kind of hold on until Dikembe got back in the game. When he got back in at the end, he made some critical plays to help us."
Said the 76rs' Tyrone Hill: "It was one of those games where Shaq is going to make his amount of shots, but at the same time, Dikembe did a pretty good job."
TWO AND ALMOST OUT: If the Lakers lose Friday night's Game 2, history would indicate that they're in deep trouble. Only two teams in NBA Finals history have come back from 2-0 deficits to win the series. The Boston Celtics lost the first two to the Lakers in 1969 and came back to win in seven games, and the Portland Trail Blazers dropped their first two to the 76ers in 1977, but bounced back to win the next four.
ON THE ROAD: The last time a visiting team won the opening game of the finals was in 1995, when Houston beat the Shaquille O'Neal-led Orlando Magic. The Rockets went on to sweep the series.
SWEEP THIS: Matt Geiger, who gave the 76ers a lift in the second quarter when he scored eight of his 10 points, has a prediction for the finals.
"This is going to be a long series," said Geiger, who had quadriceps tendinitis and played in only three of Philadelphia's last 10 playoff games before the finals.
"We battled through a lot, down 2-1 twice, two Game 7s, so we've been through a lot of wars, and we feel like they haven't, so the pressure is new to them."
FAN CHORUS: Fifteen minutes before tipoff, many in the crowd of 18,997 began chanting, "SWEEP! SWEEP!" and that continued as the Lakers opened an 18-5 lead. But as the 76ers rallied, the chant changed to "DEFENSE! DEFENSE!"
The arena grew mostly silent as Philadelphia built a big lead early in the third quarter, then the volume turned up again, "MVP! MVP!" and "LUE! LUE!" as Shaquille O'Neal and Tyronn Lue led a Los Angeles comeback.
When Allen Iverson's jumper put the 76ers up 103-99 with 48 seconds left in overtime, about the only sound was the rustle of fans rushing to the exits to try to beat the traffic out of the parking lots.
40 TIMES 2: Philadelphia's Allen Iverson had 48 points and the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal had 44 in only the second game ever in the finals that opposing players scored 40 points or more.
Chicago's Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley of Phoenix each scored 42 points in Game 2 of the finals on June 11, 1993.
IVERSON-ISMS: Allen Iverson was on a roll, quip-wise, after Philadelphia shocked the Lakers. Addressing the matter of those who thought Los Angeles would sweep the finals, Iverson grinned and said, "I'm glad nobody bet their life on it because they'd be dead now."
Asked if he was tired, Iverson replied: "I've been waiting for this opportunity all my life. I'm not thinking about fatigue right now. Fatigue is Army clothes."
ROUND UP THE USUAL CELEBS: Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon and Magic Johnson were in their usual seats. Former Los Angeles Kings star Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Janet, had choice seats near the Philadelphia sideline.
Also sitting courtside were Denzel Washington and his wife, Pauletta; "Saturday Night Live" alumni Mike Myers and Will Ferrell (with two-tone blond hair), Penny Marshall, super agent Michael Ovitz, and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Bob Daly and his songwriter-wife Carole Bayer Sager.
Just off the court were talk-show host Larry King and his wife, Shawn, and injured Dodgers outfielder Gary Sheffield.
Most celebs enter Staples Center through a tunnel, where limos deposit the rich and famous.
When Playboy founder Hugh Hefner stepped out of his ride, a stream of five statuesque women piled out behind him in a scene reminiscent of those packed-in-the-Volkswagen skits.
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