Lakers' road rules lead to repeat title

The smaller lineup gave Brown the spark he was looking for as Philadelphia raced out to a 10-3 lead. It also energized Iverson, who hit four of his first five shots. Iverson's intensity, however, drew him into picking up his third foul with 42.4 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Lakers methodically erased a 27-21 Sixers lead behind O'Neal's inside power, Fox's hustle and some long-range bombing. With Iverson cautiously avoiding his fourth foul, Los Angeles built a 49-40 on Bryant's first field goal of the game -- a wide-open 3-pointer with 3:43 remaining in the half.

Iverson had 19 points at the break on 7-of-17 shooting, but Philadelphia hung tough thanks to the rejuvenation of Hill. The power forward had been having a miserable series, shooting just 30 percent and averaging 3.8 points a game, but he bounced back with nine points and 10 rebounds in the first half.

Mutombo added eight points and eight rebounds. However, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year was often rendered helpless against against O'Neal, who poured in 17 first-half points -- 11 in the second quarter -- on 7-of-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds.

"It was a great challenge. It was not easy," Mutombo said. "To show the world that I was playing against a dominant player, I have to respect myself."

The Lakers shot just 38.1 percent in the first half on 16-of-42 shooting but hit six of nine 3-pointers to take a 52-48 halftime lead. Fox and Fisher each had two threes, Fox scoring 11 points. The Sixers made only one of six threes in shooting 44.4 percent from the field (20-of-45).

Iverson, who suffered a right flank contusion at the end of the first half, missed six of his next eight shots after picking up his third foul. He was just 8-for-20 from the floor when the Lakers took a 66-55 lead in the third period on Bryant's hanging, double-clutch drive. The league MVP buried a 3-pointer and a long two in Fisher's face to cut L.A.'s lead to 67-62.

After Snow's jumper brought Philly within 70-64, the Lakers appeared to put the series away with a quarter-closing 13-4 run. Los Angeles scored on five straight trips down the floor, getting to the line on the first four before Fisher sank a 3-pointer for a 78-66 lead.

Meanwhile, Philly's frustration was mounting. After Rodney Buford knocked Fox to the floor with an elbow for an offensive foul, Iverson was whistled for his fourth foul when he pushed off Fisher with his right arm as the Lakers enjoyed an 83-68 cushion after three quarters.

"It was an unbelievable run for us in the playoffs," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who earned his eighth ring. "We played at a level in which we thought and visualized ourselves playing during the course of the year."

L.A. padded its lead to 19 at 87-68 early in the fourth, but the Sixers stayed true to their never-say-die attitude. Iverson's driving jumper cut the gap to 93-82 and force a Lakers timeout with 5:48 remaining. After Fisher's fifth 3-pointer of the night pushed L.A. out to a 96-84 lead, Iverson responded with a three of his own to keep the Sixers' comeback hopes alive at 96-87 with 4:30 to go.

O'Neal fouled out Geiger and Mutombo on back-to-back possessions, sinking one of two free throws each time for a 98-87 Lakers lead. Fox's follow shot put them up by 13. Still, the Sixers refused to go quietly.

Hill's three-point play made it an eight-point game with 1:51 to play. A free throw by Snow cut it to 100-93. But Fisher sank a 3-pointer to put Los Angeles up by 10 with less than a minute left. Even after Aaron McKie's 3-pointer made it a seven-point game again, Brown decided to take out Iverson and Snow to allow the soldout crowd to salute them with standing ovations.

"If you're a tough team and you play the right way, the truth comes out," Snow said. "There are no flukes that are going to win a championship when you got a seven-game series."

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