Lakers' road rules lead to repeat title

PHILADELPHIA -- Turns out, Kobe Bryant was all wrong. The road to the NBA championship didn't go through Los Angeles after all.

Bryant's Lakers never even had to leave the City of Brotherly Love to successfully defend their crown because the path to postseason history went straight through the First Union Center -- and the Liberty Bell-sized hearts of the Philadelphia 76ers -- in a title-clinching 108-96 victory Friday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

In repeating as world champs, the Lakers recorded the best winning percentage in postseason history at .937 with a 15-1 mark. Ironically, the previous mark was held by Philadelphia's last NBA champion, the Julius Erving-led 1983 Sixers who went 12-1 (.923).

In becoming the first team to go unbeaten on the road, the Lakers set the record for consecutive road wins in one postesason with eight, topping the 1995 Houston Rockets' seven.

"You can never line up and play those teams (from the past)," said forward Rick Fox in trying to assess the 2000-01 Lakers' place in history. "But we have an argument because of the way we performed in the playoffs."

"We've got to be at the top of the best. I mean, no one has ever gone 15-1," bragged backup guard Tyronn Lue. "No team ever went 8-0 on the road, so I think this team definitely ranks with the best teams in NBA history."

O'Neal clinched the MVP award with 29 points and 13 rebounds, but it was Derek Fisher's 3-point bombing that completed the repeat. The point guard, who had 18 points, sank his sixth 3-pointer of the night with 51.4 seconds left to ruin another late Philadelphia rally.

For the game, the Lakers made 12 of 17 threes, with Fox (20 points) going 3-for-3 and Bryant 2-for-3 in adding 26 points. Philadelphia made just four of 15 threes in shooting 41.1 percent (37-of-90) from the field.

"Winning a first championship is like a honeymoon. You just have to prove to everybody that we could do it," said Bryant, who also had 12 rebounds and six assists. "This time around, we went through so much adversity, so many ups and downs. It feels good to win it."

Allen Iverson, who left the game to chants of "MVP! MVP!" after picking up his fifth foul late in the game, finished with a game-high 37 points. He then left the arena without speaking to the media after refusing to wait for Bryant to leave the interview room.

Iverson never got to back up his words at the end of Game 2 with Bryant, who debated with the Sixers star about how the series would play out in Philadelphia. Friday was the same old story. Even though Dikembe Mutombo turned in his usual double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Tyrone Hill showed up for the first time in the series with 18 points and 13 boards, the banged-up Sixers once again couldn't match the Lakers' talented supporting cast.

"The better team won," Sixers forward Matt Geiger said. "They outplayed us. They deserve it. I tip my cap to them."

"I don't know if I could be any more proud of my team," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "I had three guys playing with broken ankles. The effort my group put forth against a phenomenal club was just incredible."

Brown, who placed an emphasis on a fast start after his Sixers fell into double-digit, first-half deficits the past two games, went with a quicker starting five, replacing second-year small forward Jumaine Jones with Eric Snow for a three-guard look.

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