This article was originally published in the Inquirer on May 14, 2001.
A 76ers squad that has defense as its trademark lost one of its primary defenders in George Lynch yesterday.
The 6-foot-8 forward went down with 27 seconds left in the third quarter after landing on Toronto Raptors forward Alvin Williams' foot after a layup. Lynch fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the same bone he suffered a stress fracture to last August. He has been wearing orthotics all season in an effort to cushion the bone.
Lynch departed the Air Canada Centre in a wheelchair and headed back to Philadelphia to have his foot operated on last night. He is expected to be out four to six weeks, which is essentially for the season unless the Sixers build off yesterday's 84-79 win in Game 4, get past the Raptors, and capture the Eastern Conference crown.
"It's a real sad feeling for me," Lynch said. "To work as hard as I have all season, to help this team get to this point, it's real frustrating to go out this time of year. But there's no time to think about that right now. We're in the semifinals. Our goals of capturing the Eastern Conference championship and, hopefully, the NBA championship are still in our sights. "
Team physician Jack McPhilemy said: "Coincidentally, George was asking me about what should we do when the season ends about surgery. It was really coincidental. He hasn't said a word about surgery all year. Then . . . before the game, he asked me about getting it fixed at the end of the season.
"He's been wearing orthotics all year. He's actually had a lot of problems with shoes until about six weeks ago when he finally found a pair of sneakers that made him feel comfortable. He used a pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, and they were the most comfortable for him. "
Sixers coach Larry Brown said Jumaine Jones and Rodney Buford could be called upon to contribute heavily in Lynch's absence.
"That's fine with me," said Jones, who played 14 minutes but didn't score yesterday. "I'm ready to do whatever I have to do to help this team win. "
"I can't wait," Buford said. "I've been waiting for this opportunity all season long. I'm real sorry it had to come like this, with George being down. But I'm anxious to get out there. I was in the playoffs with Miami last year. It's a different feeling and a great feeling. I just want to be a part of it. "
Annoyed Raptors. After the game, several Raptors were annoyed, some at themselves, others at teammates, and a few apparently at coach Lenny Wilkens.
Forward Jerome Williams, Toronto's version of the Energizer bunny, came off the bench and contributed seven rebounds in eight first-half minutes. But he was benched for all but one minute of the second half.
Despite the Raptors' horrific 26 percent (13 of 50) shooting display in the game's first 24 minutes, sharpshooter Dell Curry - who scored 20 points off the bench in Game 1 - didn't receive a minute in the second half.
And Toronto's propensity to take outside shots instead of attacking Dikembe Mutombo inside irked center Antonio Davis.
"We need to attack him," Davis said. "We absolutely need to go after him, get him in some foul trouble, make him pay more attention on the inside. We are doing nothing against him, running nothing against him. That's got to change. "
As for not playing Williams for practically all of the second half, Wilkens said: "The Sixers kept Tyrone Hill in the game, so I felt it was necessary to keep Charles Oakley in the game. It was just a decision I made because I felt it was best. "
Regarding Curry, Wilkens said, "We were coming back, going on a run, so I decided to stick with that. "
Curry's response: "That's the way it's been all year. You don't know what happened or what the coach was thinking. But, I guess in the second half, the first unit had it going. But it looked like they ran out of gas a little bit, chasing Allen Iverson. But that's just the way it's been all season. So what can I do?
"I would have liked to have been out there. We shot the ball poorly today, from the first quarter all the way to the last. But that's just the way Lenny has been coaching all year. "
Inside work. The Raptors and Sixers virtually neutralized each other on points in the paint: 26 for the Sixers, 24 for the Raptors. After allowing the Raptors to run roughshod over them in the first three games, the Sixers outscored Toronto, 34-16, on fastbreak points.