This article was originally published in the Daily News on April 23, 2001.
Little by little, the life began seeping back into the 76ers. That, they knew, is what the practice floor and film sessions are for. Agonizing bit by agonizing bit, they began to look ahead to tomorrow night's Game2 against the Indiana Pacers rather than Saturday afternoon's inexplicable, 79-78 loss.
They stopped thinking about blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter, or about scoring 26 points in the second half, or about seeing the Pacers' Reggie Miller rise above everyone and nail a 27-foot game-winning three-pointer.
"[Saturday night] I sat in my house and I was thinking about every little thing that we could've done to win," the Sixers' Allen Iverson said. "I thought of all the mistakes and all that did was make me a little bit angry and make [tomorrow] seem that much further away. So I just stopped dwelling on everything and just concentrated on trying to win the next game. "
The competitor in Iverson had brought him to say, in the postgame news conference, "Our asses got tight, simple as that. "
He didn't apologize yesterday. Because he knew - and his teammates knew - what he meant.
"We've just got to control leads when we have them," he said. "That's all I meant by that. We had a 16-point lead at halftime; you're supposed to, if anything, win by one. We don't lose with a 16-point lead. I learned that in elementary school, high school.
"You're up 16 points at halftime, you're supposed to keep that lead. We didn't keep it, and I felt like our asses got tight. I didn't mean any disrespect to myself, to my teammates, the coaching staff. I just. . . that's how I felt right then, and that's how it felt to me. We had a game right here at home and we let it slip away. It's going to be harder on us, but nothing in life is easy. "
They are, unexpectedly, down one game in the best-of-five NBA first-round playoff series. So much for being the No. 1 seed in the East vs. the No. 8 seed.
"As long as you understand you've got to win three games, no problem," Iverson said. "For us to lose our confidence now and get down on each other, it'd be stupid. We played 82 games; to come in and get down after we lose one game, it's crazy, and I think the makeup of the team is a little better than that. We've got a little bit more character than to just throw it away on one game. It's time to go play in Indiana after this game. "